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General Motors' Sales in China Surge 13%

General Motors' headquarters in Detroit. Photo: General Motors.

General Motors (NYSE: GM  ) is having a solid week of sales reports, to be sure. The good news started on Tuesday, when the company said it delivered 212,060 vehicles in the U.S., which was a 14% increase over last year and its best November performance in six years. Every single one of General Motors' four brands recorded double-digit and industry-beating sales gains over last year. What's perhaps even more impressive than its November success in the U.S. was its performance in the world's largest automotive market, China.

General Motors and its joint ventures in China posted a hefty 13.3% increase for a new November record, dishing out nearly 295,000 vehicles. It was its second-best sales month of the year in China and builds on a solid year-to-date performance that has recorded sales increases of 11.4% through 11 months.

By the numbers

  • Shanghai GM sold 142,009 vehicles, an increase of 4.1% year over year
  • SAIC-GM-Wuling's sales rose 23.4% to 146,296 units
  • FAW-GM sold 6,015 vehicles, an increase of 24.4%.

Now, for some brands you'll recognize.

Buick, led by its Excelle family, posted an 8.4% increase to 76,085 vehicles sold. Meanwhile, Chevrolet posted a rare sales decline for the month, down 5.3% to just under 60,000 units. Cadillac continued what has been a great surge for the company both in the U.S. and overseas with an increase of 92.5% in November to 6,277 units.

During the first 11 months of the year, General Motors and its joint ventures have notched more than 2,889,000 units sold in China and will reach 3 million for the first time ever in the middle of December. This should solidify a strong fourth-quarter performance in the region and could improve market share. Combining the first two months of its fourth quarter, it totals roughly 577,000 deliveries with December's results yet to be determined. However, another solid monthly performance in the last month of the year would push the deliveries seen in the graph below much higher during General Motors' fourth-quarter earnings report.

Graph by author. Information from General Motors' Q3 SEC filing.

Why it matters
This is an important market for all automakers as it's already the world's largest automotive market, and it's also projected to grow significantly throughout the rest of this decade. By significantly, I mean analysts have projected China's vehicle sales to grow from roughly 19 million vehicles in 2012 to as many as 30 million by 2020. That 11 million in vehicle sales growth is nearly equal to the number Europe sold in total last year.

It also matters for General Motors because it has a sizable advantage over rival Ford (NYSE: F  ) as the latter was late to the party in China. For comparisons, General Motors' market share in China has consistently checked in around 14% while Ford recorded a 4.3% share in the third quarter. For the first two months of the fourth quarter, Ford has sold roughly 193,000 vehicles in China, while General Motors has topped 577,000.

General Motors has had a solid performance, no doubt, but it can't rest on its laurels, either. Ford has plans to boost its market share sooner rather than later. It will launch 15 new models in the region by 2015 including the 2015 Mustang that was unveiled Thursday. General Motors also is in a dogfight with Volkswagen to become the dominant player in China. This region will definitely be key for automotive investors to watch as the decade progresses as massive revenue is up for grabs.

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