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BUSINESS & TECH

GM Reports Sharp Drop in Quarterly China Vehicle Sales

General Motors Co.’s Buick vehicles are displayed outside a car dealership in Shanghai on July 8. Photo: VCG
General Motors Co.’s Buick vehicles are displayed outside a car dealership in Shanghai on July 8. Photo: VCG

The U.S.’ largest automaker, General Motors Co., has reported a sharp quarterly drop in China sales, citing weaker consumer demand in a slowing economy.

GM sold 835,934 vehicles in China in the three months through September, down 14.9% year-on-year, it said in a statement on Monday. It is the company’s first drop in sales since the first quarter of last year when China sales fell 5.2%. The tally for the first nine months of 2018 is a decline of 2.5% to around 2.7 million units.

In a separate statement to Caixin, GM said the market slump was mainly due to a “softening of China’s passenger vehicle market and strong Q3 in 2017.” A new engine technology changeover for the Buick model, its mainstream brand, was also a factor, the statement added.

“The auto market in China has, at least since the middle of this year, begun to decline amid sluggish economic growth. And trade tension between China and the U.S. has dented consumer confidence,” said Wang Cun, an industry analyst with the China Automobile Dealers Association.

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Wang added that GM had yet to launch effective strategies to mitigate the negative effects of this overall trend.

In August, overall car sales in China were down for the second month in a row, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. The China Passenger Car Association, another government-backed industry association, has revised its estimate for the year’s sales to a 1% decrease from 2017 — a marked change from the 4% increase it had previously predicted.

The trend could become a long-term challenge for foreign brands, including GM, in the world’s largest car market, where years of breakneck growth has been key to their ongoing development.

Also on Monday, Jaguar Land Rover, a British luxury brand owned by Indian conglomerate Tata, reported a 46% dip in September sales in China, which accounts for nearly a quarter of its global volume.

Ford Motor Co.’s China sales in August also slid 36% year-on-year to around 63,000 vehicles, continuing a series of poor monthly performances for the U.S.’ second-largest automaker.

Contact reporter Mo Yelin (yelinmo@caixin.com)

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