Honda China's 2008 Sales Rise 11.7%; Overtaking GM

BEIJING -- Honda Motor Co. (HMC) said Thursday its sales in China last year rose 11.7% to 473,297 units, overtaking General Motors Corp. (GM) for the first time in passenger auto sales in the country.

Honda's performance was driven by sales of a new Accord sedan, which rose 44.5% last year to 170,517 units, and by the popularity of its CR-V sport- utility vehicle, which grew 76.4% in sales to 80,607 units last year.

"Honda has been getting stronger throughout the year," said Benjamin Asher, business manager at market research firm JD Power. "Despite the slowing down of the market it has been performing better than average, whereas GM has been performing worse than average."

GM said Tuesday sales at its passenger vehicle making joint venture, Shanghai General Motors Corp., fell 7.0% to 445,709 units in 2008. GM also imported about 2,400 passenger vehicles.

GM also has a commercial vehicle making joint venture, SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile Co., which sold 647,296 units last year.

Figures released by both GM and Honda are sales to dealerships, as opposed to retail sales.

If sales at GM's commercial vehicle joint venture, in which it owns a 34% stake, are included, GM may continue to be the largest auto maker in China by sales.

However, 2008 continues a troubling trend for GM in China, a country auto makers regard as an important source of growth as sales in mature markets decline. The U.S. manufacturer lost its No. 2 spot in China to Toyota in 2007, when it sold about 480,000 passenger vehicles compared with around 500,000 units for Toyota.

Toyota had already sold almost 500,000 units through November 2008, according to JD Power.

Honda will likely rank third in China in passenger vehicle sales after Toyota and market leader Volkswagen AG (VLKAY), which sold about 755,000 units in January-November last year, according to JD Power data.

The companies haven't released their full-year sales figures for 2008.

Honda's strong showing contrasts with its peers' performance in the China market. Chery Automobile Co. said Thursday it sold 356,000 units last year, down 6.6%, while Hyundai Motor Co. (005380.SE) said it won't reach its original sales target in China of 380,000 units.

Guangzhou Honda Automobile Co., Honda's 50-50 joint venture with Guangzhou Automobile Group Co., sold 306,183 units last year, up 3.7% from 295,299 units in 2007, the Japanese automobile maker said in a statement. The venture makes the Accord and Fit sedans and the Odyssey minivan, among other vehicles.

Sales at Dongfeng Honda Automobile Co., a 50-50 venture with China's Dongfeng Motor Corp., jumped 29.3% to 164,216 units last year from 127,009 the previous year, it said. Dongfeng Honda makes the CR-V sport-utility vehicle and the Civic sedan.

Imports of Acura vehicles more than doubled last year to 2,898 units, from 1, 402 units in 2007, the statement said.

(Dow Jones)

No comments: