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China's Auto Sales Expected to Explode

October 20, 2003|From Associated Press

BANGKOK, Thailand — Calling China the world's main engine of growth for the automotive industry, a top General Motors Corp. executive said Sunday that the country would soon surpass Japan to become the second-largest car market after the United States.

In five years China will become Asia's largest automotive market, pushing ahead of Japan, predicted Frederick Henderson, Asia-Pacific president for the U.S. auto giant.

Henderson spoke at a meeting of international executives on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, being held in the Thai capital.

"Looking at the next 10 years, we see China being an engine of growth across the world," Henderson said

GM's China operations reported a 62.5% surge in sales of Buick cars during the first three quarters of 2003 -- about 133,000 units -- compared with 2002. GM sold just 30,000 Buicks in China during all of 2000.

China wants to nurture a world-class auto industry. Imports and auto sales have soared as the government cut tariffs on auto imports and state-run banks boosted auto loans.

But although China's market is expected to expand to 4 million car sales this year, it's not the only place where automakers are seeing opportunities in Asia.

Henderson said GM and its rivals also were seeking out business across Southeast Asia, with its 500 million people, and in India, with its 1 billion people.

Automakers have made significant investments in those countries and will continue to do so because of the "very, very large business opportunities," Henderson said.

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