* On track to double China sales by 2015 despite market
* Outperforms China so far, aims for as much as 10 pct
growth this yr
* Expects China overall market to grow 3-5 pct in 2011
* Won't support Saab takeover if it hurts GM's China
By Fang Yan and Ken Wills
BEIJING, Nov 7 General Motors is on track
to double its annual tally to 5 million vehicles in China by
2015 despite slowing growth in the world's largest auto market,
its China chief said on Monday.
GM, which competes in China with Volkswagen AG
among other global brands, has been outperforming the market so
far this year due in part to hot-selling Buick and Chevrolet
cars made at Shanghai GM, its flagship China car venture.
"We still have our plan in place to double our volume by
2015, and we are still working towards that," Kevin Wale,
president and managing director for GM's China operation, told
Reuters in a telephone interview.
China's once booming auto market has downshifted to a 3.6
percent gain in the first nine months, after jumping 32 percent
and 46 percent, respectively, in 2010 and 2009.
The cooling has been attributed to a raft of factors, from
the end of tax incentives for small cars to local authorities'
initiatives aimed at easing ever-worsening traffic congestion.
Wale, however, remains optimistic on the growth potential of
the Chinese market.
"We will have some down years and we will have some up
years, but we think the fundamentals are still very strong," he
"There is still going to be substantial growth in the China
market on a trend basis and we still think it will grow between
some 7 to 10 percent per year in the foreseeable future."
He expected passenger car sales to grow about 10 percent
this year, with the overall market gaining 3-5 percent.
In October, GM, which operates auto manufacturing ventures
in China with SAIC Motor Corp and FAW Group, sold
220,412 vehicles in the country, up 10.4 percent from a year
earlier. The company expects sales for the full year to grow as
much as 10 percent.
To reach its 2015 China target, GM aims to introduce some 60
new and upgraded models in the country during the period --
about 12 of them being Buicks and 15 Chevrolets, Wale said in
GM started to export its Chevy new Sail, made at Shanghai
GM, in January 2010, with shipment totaling 5,000 units, as of
the end of October of that year, mostly to Chile.
Exports of Sail, along with some mini vehicles made at GM's
venture in southern China, are expected to reach 50,000 units
this year, mostly to South America and North Africa.
Wale said he did not have a specific target for exports but
would continue to look for opportunities.
"We export only if we have a product. When we find that we
have a unique product and there is an opportunity in
distribution processes around the world, we take advantage of
Wale reiterated a company spokesman's comment that GM might
block a deal by two Chinese companies to take over troubled
Swedish carmaker Saab, in which GM still holds some preferred
Early in the month, Pang Da Automobile Trade Co.
and Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile Co signed an initial
agreement to take over Saab, owned by Swedish Automobile
The deal, valid through Nov 15, requires the approval of the
Chinese government, the European Investment Bank, the Swedish
government and GM, which has preference shares in Saab and is a
major supplier of components.
A GM spokesman in Detroit told the New York Times over the
weekend that GM might block the deal unless it would not affect
GM's interest in China and elsewhere.
Wale concurred on Monday, saying, "It doesn't make sense for
us to support any change that might adversely affect us. We use
global architectures and those global architectures are used in
a number of products we make at SGM."
SGM, or Shanghai GM, also makes Cadillac models.