GM China Chief Sees Lift in 2013 Sales on Commercial Demand

General Motors Co. (GM), which counts China as its biggest market by volume, said its sales in the world’s largest auto market may see a lift next year from gains in commercial vehicle deliveries and demand for passenger cars.

The company’s passenger-vehicle sales in the world’s second-biggest economy should be “about the same” as this year, while commercial vehicles may “pick up a little bit,” GM China President Bob Socia, who took over the role on Oct. 1, said in an interview at the Guangzhou auto show today.

GM, which sells Buick and Chevrolet cars in China, is competing for buyers with Volkswagen AG (VOW), Nissan Motor Co. and an estimated more than 90 auto brands. Passenger-vehicle sales will expand by an average 8 percent a year to reach 22 million in 2020, driven by demand for sport-utility vehicles and rising incomes in smaller cities, according to McKinsey & Co.

“We recognize that there’s some formidable competition out there, but next year should be a pretty good year,” Socia said. “What we want to do is continue to outstrip the growth in the industry and try to grab share along the way, as we’ve done this year.”

GM aims to hold on to its position as the market leader among foreign automakers in China, Socia said. VW edged ahead of GM in the third quarter in China sales, the first time in eight years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Cadillac Focus

Promoting the Cadillac brand in China will be “an area of concentration,” said Socia, who joined the Cadillac division in Detroit in 1975. GM will also focus on boosting SUV sales and on the export business, he said.

During the first 10 months of this year, GM and its joint ventures sold 2.3 million vehicles in China, an increase of 11 percent from a year earlier. Cadillac sales in China rose 20 percent to 2,491 units in October.

“The major task for GM would be to reinforce their positioning in the luxury segment because this is a segment that is continuing to grow,” said Klaus Paur, Shanghai-based global head of automotive coverage at researcher Ipsos.

Socia was vice president for global purchasing before taking the China assignment, replacing Kevin Wale who retired on Oct. 31. In 2007, Socia was named executive vice president of Shanghai GM, the Detroit giant’s joint venture in China with SAIC Motor Corp. (600104)

SUV sales will triple in the 10 years from 2011 for the fastest growth among the vehicle segments, as Chinese consumers become wealthier and buy bigger vehicles, according to a report released this week by McKinsey. China’s smaller cities will account for almost 60 percent of new car deliveries by the end of the decade, up from 40 percent in the preceding period, it said.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Alexandra Ho in Shanghai at aho113@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chua Kong Ho at kchua6@bloomberg.net

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