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GM Posts First Sales Gain in China in 2 Years

Volumes are up in all the most profitable segments
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Sales are on fire again for General Motors in China.

The company says deliveries through its joint ventures in the country jumped 12% to 771,400 year-on-year. It was GM’s first quarterly gain in two years, reversing a 5% drop in the previous quarter as the coronavirus pandemic subsides in China.

Buick Envision: a big seller in China  (Images: GM)

Booming Demand for High-Margin Models

SUV/crossovers, minivans and luxury models led the growth for GM’s own brands.

Buick sales in July-September climbed 26% to more than 250,000 units. The brand’s strongest gainers were the GL8 large minivan (52,000 units, up 17%) and the Envision small crossover vehicle (334,000, up 48%).

Cadillac saw demand for its luxury cars and crossovers zoom 28% to 65,000 units. The latter category contributed more than 60% of the total volume. GM’s Chevrolet brand saw sales drop 20% to 77,000 vehicles.

Entry-Level Slump

Results were mixed for the Chinese brands co-produced by GM and its partners. Commercial vehicle maker Wuling reports a 26% jump to 276,700 units. GM says the brand’s first all-electric, the two-seat Honguang Mini EV, sold 28,000 units. The $4,200 car was China’s best-selling “new-energy vehicle” (NEV) in the third quarter.

Wuling’s Hong Guang Mini EV

Deliveries of entry-level Baojun brand cars didn’t fare as well. GM says sales of the vehicles, which are built by the company’s venture with SAIC and Guangxi Automobile, dropped 19% to 100,000 units in July-September. Baojun’s E series micro-mini electric city cars accounted for 10% of the brand’s volume.

GM now offers about a dozen electric and hybrid models in China. Sales of NEVs have more than doubled this year. The company says 40% of its new-model launches in the country over the next five years will be electrified.

The Takeaway

These quarterly results are definitely encouraging. But GM still has lots of ground to cover to restore earlier volumes. The company’s sales in China sagged from 4 million units in 2017 to 3.1 million last year.

But volume isn’t everything. GM’s strongest sellers also are its most profitable models.

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