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As China emerges from pandemic, sales of GM vehicles recover

Kalea Hall
The Detroit News

Detroit — Continuing positive pandemic recovery in China enabled General Motors Co. to achieve a 12% year-over-year increase in third-quarter sales, the automaker said Monday.

The increase for the July through September period was the first time GM saw sales rise quarter over quarter in two years. Overall, the automaker sold more than 771,400 vehicles despite a global pandemic that caused GM to sell less than 462,000 vehicles in China during the first three months of 2020.

The Buick VELITE 7 all-electric SUV, built for the Chinese market.

"Headquarters must be feeling good about this news out of China, because it's been a real battle for them in the last 24 to 36 months as they saw sales and market share fall away," said Michael Dunne, CEO of Hong Kong-based advisory firm ZoZo Go LLC.

GM closed out 2019 with sales down 15%. The automaker has made changes to its product lineup in China including switching from sedans to SUVS for "an SUV-crazy market" and they have also got attention from the growing number of affluent buyers in China, Dunne said.

"Cadillac has done a nice job of catching that wave of optimism among affluent urban consumers," he said.

In the third quarter, Cadillac had more than 65,000 sales in China, an increase of 28% from a year earlier. Its SUV portfolio of the XT4, XT5 and XT6  had collective sales of more than 40,000. Buick sales were up 26%. Chevrolet sales were down 20% and Baojun sales dipped by 19%. 

Wuling sales increased 26%. The brand's first all-electric model – the Hong Guang MINI EV – has become the best-selling new energy vehicle model in China with sales from July through September topping 28,000, GM China said. 

What's also helped GM is the decision to backtrack on its plan to only sell three-cylinder engine vehicles, which did not go over well with customers in China, causing sales to slip. China's slowing economy also caused auto sales to struggle after years of growth. Dunne is expecting auto sales in China to be up in the fourth quarter, but down for the year because of the pandemic's hit in the first half of 2020.

With more stringent emissions standards in China, GM has launched more than 10 new energy vehicles there, including the Buick VELITE 7 all-electric SUV, VELITE 6 plug-in hybrid electric vehicle and Wuling Hong Guang MINI EV. 

More than 40% of GM’s new launches over the next five years in China will be new energy vehicles.

Twitter: @bykaleahall