China Passes U.S. As Largest New-Car Market in January

Unless you've been living under a rock lately, you know that car sales aren't going well here in the U.S. Sales figures for January were released yesterday, and they weren't pretty. The U.S. is currently trending at 9.6 million to 9.8 million new auto sales for 2009, which incidentally, has allowed China to surpass the U.S. as the world's largest new-car market.

"This is the first time in history that China has surpassed the U.S.," said Michael DiGiovanni, GM's head of global sales and industry analysis, told The Financial Times.

Of course, sales trends change daily, so the U.S. could easily pull ahead of China again in the near future should its economy and car sales pick up. These trends, though, don't tell the whole story. Auto market analysts in China say that the country's sales figures include every vehicle sold, including commercial vehicles and busses. U.S. figures do not include such vehicles, so America's estimated 9.8 million new-vehicle sales are actually still well ahead of China's. In fact, China only sold 5.8 million new passenger cars in 2008.

Despite the discrepancy, the U.S. market is still trending behind China and has been for at least two months now. In December, the U.S. was trending at 10.3 million while China was trending at 10.7 million. At the moment, the U.S. market is still in danger of contracting further while China's market continues to grow. Still, it's only February, so the numbers could tell a very different story at the end of the year. A significant part of the blow the U.S. market took in January was the huge drop in fleet sales, which may or may not be an isolated incident.

(Motor Trend)

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