GM Posts Increase in China Vehicle Sales, Joining Toyota

General Motors Co. (GM)’s vehicle sales rose 10 percent last month in China, bucking an estimated drop in overall passenger-car deliveries, after it offered discounts on low-cost minivans in the world’s biggest auto market.

The company sold 220,412 vehicles in China in October, up from 199,641 units a year earlier, the Detroit-based company said in a statement today. The increase outpaced GM’s 1.7 percent sales gain in the U.S. last month and followed a 15 percent rise in Chinese deliveries in September.

The largest U.S. carmaker joined Toyota Motor Corp. (7203) in reporting higher sales in China during October as demand slows in the country, spurring more competition and leading carmakers to deepen incentives. GM, counting on China to overtake Toyota’s global sales this year, introduced discounts on its Wuling light trucks after the government phased out sales-tax breaks and rebates for rural buyers in January.

“With the Wuling price reduction they replicated the incentives that the government has given,” said Klaus Paur, Shanghai-based managing director at Synovate Motoresearch. “This had incredible impact.”

The gains at GM and Toyota are a contrast to the nation’s overall passenger-car sales, which fell 4.2 percent in October, the country’s Passenger Car Association said today. China’s automaker association said on Oct. 11 it expects vehicle sales to increase less than 5 percent this year, after surging 32 percent in 2010.

SAIC-GM-Wuling

Sales by SAIC-GM-Wuling Automotive Co., GM’s minivan venture with SAIC Motor, rose 19 percent to 111,957 vehicles in October, according to the statement. The venture, which makes the best-selling Wuling Sunshine minivan in China, cut prices from the end of May and offered further discounts in late July to lure buyers. SAIC-GM-Wuling accounted for about half of the 2.35 million vehicles the automaker sold there last year.

Industry sales of the vehicles -- nicknamed “bread trucks” for their boxy shape -- fell more than 10 percent in the first seven months of this year, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. The automaker posted a decline in July sales before discounts spurred a rebound in deliveries of commercial vehicles.

GM, whose sales in China have surpassed 2 million units this year, said it aims to double deliveries in the country to 5 million by 2015.

The U.S. carmaker’s sedan venture with SAIC, which produces Buick and Chevrolet-branded cars, boosted sales 4 percent to 103,309 vehicles.

Auto sales in China surged 32 percent to 18.06 million vehicles in 2010, helping the country surpass the U.S. as the world’s largest auto market for a second straight year.

Japan’s Toyota, Asia’s biggest carmaker, is also reporting gains. The company’s China sales rose 32 percent in October to 82,000 vehicles, according to Xu Yiming, the company’s Beijing- based spokesman, said Nov. 4.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Young-Sam Cho at ycho2@bloomberg.net

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