China’s Appetite For US Autos Is Growing, Even As Its Economy Slows

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Chinese auto sales continued an ascent higher, with General Motors and Ford reporting strong growth in the Pacific nation.

General motors posted an annual gain of 8.3%, selling 2,547,171 units. Dearborn-based Ford saw sales increase 7.5% over the last year to 519,390 units, with momentum steadily increasing through the end of the year.

“GM stayed ahead of the competition despite a slowdown in the growth of industry demand thanks to our broad portfolio of appealing vehicles,” said Kevin Wale, president and managing director of the GM China Group.

Most of the growth at GM China was fuelled by Buick, which saw sales surge 17.4% to a record 645,537 vehicles. Buick, which is still completing a turnaround in the Americas, is a leading luxury brand in the nation. Its larger and more stately sister brand, Cadillac, is also rapidly expanding in China — with sales up 73% to 30,008 over the last twelve months.

Ford saw a similar story, with its Mondeo and Focus lineups up 25% and 10%, respectively. 

“Ford expects sustainable growth moving forward in China. To keep up with market demand, Ford together with its partners are currently adding four new plants in China, including a vehicle assembly plant in Chongqing that will come online in 2012.”

For the first 11 months of 2011, passenger car sales rose 5.3% to 13.1 million units, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. A year earlier, sales growth topped 33.1%.

Other automakers were not as lucky. According to Bloomberg, Honda saw sales contract 4.5% to 617,764 units. The company is still reeling from the effects of flooding in Thailand, which sparked a parts shortage at its Chinese production lines.