July 7, 2014 at 11:38 pm

Ford, GM sales in China soar in first half of '14

Two of Detroit’s automakers reported record sales gains in China through the first half of 2014.

Ford Motor Co. sold nearly 550,000 vehicles in China through the first six months of the year, a 35 percent increase over the same period a year ago in the world’s largest auto market. The Dearborn automaker’s June sales increased 17 percent from the same month a year ago, thanks to demand for vehicles like the Ford Focus, Mondeo, EcoSport and Kuga.

General Motors Co. and its joint ventures reported that sales in China rose a record 9.1 percent in June compared to the same month a year ago; sales are up a record 10.5 percent year-to-date over the same time in 2013.

The news comes as local Chinese brands lose market share to foreign automakers who are pushing into the country’s smaller cities with cheaper models.

“Ford’s strong sales in the first half demonstrate the success of our accelerated China growth plan,” John Lawler, chairman and CEO of Ford China, said in a statement. “We continue to grow our sales network, increase capacity and hire great employees — all to deliver the high quality, safety, fuel efficiency and smart technologies that Chinese customers demand.”

Ford has sold more than 200,000 Focus compact cars in China through the first six months of 2014, a 9 percent increase from the same period a year ago. U.S. Focus sales have fallen this year, down 10.3 percent to 120,956, according to Ford’s monthly sales report released last week.

First-half sales of Ford’s Mondeo passenger car increased 124 percent; its Kuga SUV sales were up 78 percent and its EcoSport SUV sales rose 103 percent.

During the first half of 2014, Ford China experienced a 70 percent increase in sales for passenger vehicles imported into the country: the Ford Focus ST, Fiesta ST, Edge and Explorer.

GM said sales in China for the first six months of the year have totaled 1.73 million. Sales in June hit 257,798 cars.

“GM has experienced growth in demand for our products across China this year, especially at the higher end of our lineup and in the SUV/MPV segment,” Matt Tsien, GM executive vice president and president of GM China said in a statement. “We anticipate sales remaining strong through the end of 2014, as more people — particularly outside China’s major cities — become first-time vehicle buyers.”

China is GM’s largest sales market. Last year, the company sold nearly 3.2 million vehicles in China.

Foreign automakers are targeting China’s smaller cities as the country’s major population centers increasingly restrict the number of passenger vehicles to curb pollution and congestion. That’s led to the introduction of cheaper models to compete with local carmakers who have struggled to stem a loss in market share in the world’s largest auto market.

“Automakers are focusing their product launches on the lower- and mid-end of the market,” said Harry Chen, a Shenzhen-based analyst at Guotai Junan Securities Co. Ltd. “When new products come into the market, it stimulates sales.”

GM introduced the Aveo subcompact sedan last month, while Volkswagen AG started sales of the new Polo compact sedan at the end of May, according to the companies.

The competition is eating into the market share for Chinese brands.

China’s local marques accounted for 21.5 percent of industry car sales in May, a decline of 5.1 percentage points from a year earlier, according to data from the state-backed China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

Bloomberg News contributed.