General Motors' sales rise 36 percent in China

GM is on pace for a record year in China.
DETROIT -- General Motors Corp. sales in China grew 36.7 percent in the first nine months of the year, compared with a year ago, enabling GM to hold onto its title as the largest automaker in the fastest-growing market in the world.
GM's sales through September were 645,680, putting the company on track for a record year. GM ended 2005 as the No. 1 automaker in China with sales of 665,390, for an estimated 11.2 percent of the market share. GM and its competitors would not estimate market share for this year so far.
"For the year as a whole, GM and our joint ventures are on track to again outpace the market," said GM China Group President and Managing Director Kevin Wale. "We anticipate annual sales growth of about 30 percent."
Total auto sales in China rose to 5.17 million in the first nine months of the year, 25 percent more than a year ago, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers reported last week.
"Thirty-seven percent is very impressive," said Erich Merkle, auto analyst at IRN Inc. in Grand Rapids, Mich.
"For GM it means a lot because they have a big base," said Jim Sanfilippo, executive vice president at Automotive Marketing Consultants Inc. in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. "It's very important for GM. China is the fastest-growing economy and inevitably will be the biggest."
GM outpaced the 28.7 percent growth reported last week by the No. 2 automaker in China, Volkswagen AG. But Toyota Motor Corp. and Ford Motor Co., while newer and smaller entrants in the Chinese market, had higher percentages than GM's.
Ford reported China sales of 114,685 vehicles through September, up 105.5 percent from a year earlier. Toyota sold 203,000 vehicles, up 164 percent.
With growth like that, some analysts have speculated that Toyota, which held an estimated 3 percent of the market in 2005, could overtake GM as the top dog in China as early as 2008.

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