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General Motors Co.’s July sales fell 4 percent in China, as the automaker Thursday blamed model changeovers and phasing out older Chevy vehicles for the drop.

The China auto sales market — GM’s largest sales market — has slowed in recent months as the stock market there has fallen and automakers have cut prices.

GM and its joint ventures in China sold 229,175 vehicles to retail customers in July.

“We have had a series of successful product launches over the past few months, including the all-new Buick Excelle GT sedan and Baojun 560 SUV. This has helped us manage the current challenges facing the Chinese vehicle market,” GM China President Matt Tsien said in a statement. “These products are expected to support sales momentum for the balance of the year.”

Citi Research analyst Itay Michaeli, in a research note Thursday, said data it reviewed earlier in July had indicated an even bigger China wholesale volume decline for the industry.

“While a down 4 percent retail month certainly isn’t cause for celebration and continues to reflect softness, we suspect some investors may have been bracing for worse,” he wrote.

GM and joint venture sales are up 3.3 percent through July this year to a record nearly 1.95 million vehicles. The company said sales this year and in July have been aided by an improved sales mix of SUVs and multi-passenger vehicles.

Last month, GM announced it was cutting its overall industry sales growth forecast in China to the low-single digits from an earlier predicted 6 percent to 8 percent. GM made $1 billion in China in the first half of the year and had better than 10 percent margins. Chuck Stevens, GM’s chief financial officer, said last month that GM has taken proactive measures to deal with moderating growth in China such as continuing SUV launches and introducing cost-cutting measures.

GM is sticking with its expectations that the China market will grow much more long-term. The company and its joint ventures plan to invest $14 billion from 2014-18, adding five assembly and two powertrain facilities. GM plans to introduce 60 new or redesigned vehicles in China by 2018.

Buick brand sales through the first seven months totaled 505,845, up 4.8 percent year-over-year, while Cadillac brand sales also are up 12.1 percent so far this year. Baojun brand sales are up 323 percent so far this year to 187,121 vehicles.

Chevrolet sales fell 3.1 percent year-over-year through July to 353,007 vehicles, and Wuling brand sales fell 7 percent to 856,711. GM said Wuling’s drop is attributed to a decline in the mini-commercial vehicle market.

mburden@detroitnews.com

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