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As Ford Slumps in China, General Motors Keeps Cruising

By John Rosevear - Feb 13, 2018 at 3:06PM

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GM has hit products at both ends of China's market, and more on the way.

General Motors (GM 1.35%) said its sales in China rose 14.5% in January from a year ago. GM was able to outpace the market's overall 11% increase, gaining market share in a month in which rival Ford Motor Company (F 1.71%) saw its China sales decline dramatically.

GM's sales gain beat most rivals'

Here's how GM's sales results in China stacked up against its key global competitors in January.

Automaker Jan. 2018 Sales Change vs. Jan. 2017
General Motors 367,712 14.5%
Volkswagen (VW brand only) 296,900 9.7%
Nissan  135,037 13.1%
Toyota (TM 0.84%) 127,500 25%
Honda (HMC 0.25%) 126,174 10.9%
Ford  75,990 (18%)
Overall China light vehicles 2,456,200 11%

Data sources: The automakers, Automotive News. 

While Ford is struggling with a dated product line, GM has been posting steady gains on the strength of new and refreshed products. GM's gain in January was driven by strong results at both ends of the market.

GM's affordable offerings continue to shine in China

GM's entry-level Baojun brand, created to compete with low-cost domestic Chinese automakers, saw sales increase 36% from a year ago to 92,356.

Baojun's best seller is a compact crossover SUV called the 510: Over 43,000 were sold in January. A new wagon version of Baojun's 310 hatchback added more than 14,000 sales, roughly doubling sales of the 310 model line from a year ago.

A marketing image for the Baojun 310 Wagon, with details in Chinese.

GM says the new wagon version of its Baojun 310 hatchback combines the spaciousness and convenience features of premium models with the affordability of an entry-level passenger car. Image source: General Motors.

GM's next-level-up brand, Chevrolet, also had a strong January in China. Sales rose 40% from a year ago, to 54,350 units, led by a big seller with a name that will be familiar to Americans: Chevrolet Cavalier.

The name is a familiar one, but this Cavalier is a China-only compact sedan based on the previous-generation Cruze. It's positioned as an affordable model, competing with similar offerings from GM's global rivals. (Ford's equivalent, based on the last-generation Focus, has another familiar name: Escort.) Sales of the Cavalier topped 19,000 units in January.

A brown Chevrolet Cavalier, a compact sedan sold in China.

Its name may be familiar to Americans, but this Chevrolet Cavalier is a China-only model based on the last-generation Chevrolet Cruze compact. Image source: General Motors.

The midsize Chevrolet Malibu sedan also had a good month, with over 12,000 sold, and GM's new Chevrolet Equinox crossover continued to gain ground in China with about 6,600 sold in January.

Cadillac sales are booming -- in China

While sales of GM's luxury Cadillac brand have been stalled here in the U.S., the brand has been on a growth streak in China. Cadillac's China sales rose 12% in January to 20,222 units, giving the brand its twenty-third consecutive month of double-digit percentage growth.

As in the United States, Cadillac's best-seller in China is the well-regarded XT5 crossover SUV. But unlike the U.S., Cadillac's sedans -- particularly the big ones -- are also doing well in China: Sales of the XTS rose 32% in January, and sales of the range-topping CT6 jumped 50% from a year ago.

A white Cadillac CT6 luxury sedan in the final inspection area of GM's Shanghai factory.

Cadillac CT6s sold in China are built in a high-tech factory in Shanghai that opened in 2016. Image source: General Motors.

GM's best-selling Buick brand also did well in China in January, with sales up 5.7% to 113,007. But sales slipped 1.9% to 87.777 at GM's low-cost Wuling brand, which builds small commercial and passenger minivans.

Looking ahead: GM has a busy 2018 planned in China

With demand strong for GM's crossover SUVs in China (and elsewhere), the General is planning to expand its range of offerings as the year unfolds. GM said it will launch a total of 15 new and refreshed models in China this year, about half of which will be SUVs and MPVs (multi-purpose vehicles), the local term for minivans.

At least one of those models will probably be a Cadillac: The brand is expected to launch its long-awaited XT4, a compact crossover SUV, this fall. Given the exceptionally strong demand in China for small-but-upscale crossovers, it could quickly become a best-seller for Cadillac in the world's largest new-car market.

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General Motors Company Stock Quote
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Toyota Motor Corporation Stock Quote
Toyota Motor Corporation
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Honda Motor Co., Ltd. Stock Quote
Honda Motor Co., Ltd.
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