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Anti-Japan sentiment helps Ford, GM sales in China

Published November 7, 2012

SHANGHAI (Bloomberg) — General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. reported gains in sales in the world’s largest auto market last month as Chinese consumers shunned Japanese brands amid a territorial dispute between the two countries.

Deliveries of GM’s cars and minivans in China climbed 14 per cent to 251,812 units in October, the automaker said in a statement on its web site. Ford sold 60,518 vehicles last month in the country, or 48 per cent more than a year earlier, according to an e-mailed statement.

American auto brands have benefited from the consumer backlash against Japanese carmakers including Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. as tensions escalated in the past two months over a group of uninhabited islands at the center of a decades-long ownership dispute between Asia’s two largest economies.

“The influence on consumer mentality here could be long- lasting,” said Lin Huaibin, a Shanghai-based analyst at IHS Automotive. “This is bad news for the Japanese OEMs and very good news for the Germans and Americans.”

Toyota’s China sales plunged 44 per cent last month, following a 49 per cent drop in September. Both Honda and Nissan Motor Co. reported their worst monthly drops on record in October, based on available company figures stretching back to 2007 and 2008 respectively. The slowdown has persisted even after anti-Japan protests have subsided in China.

Buick, Chevrolet

In contrast, GM reported Buick sales increased 7.7 per cent last month to 60,510 units, Chevrolet deliveries gained 8.3 per cent to 54,660 and Cadillac rose 20 per cent to 2,491. Wuling brand sales, which includes mini-commercial vehicles, climbed 17 per cent to 118,788 units while the China-only Baojun marque sold more than 10,000 in a month for the first time, according to the company’s statement.

Ford said it sold 33,614 Focus compact cars in October. The company will introduce two new SUVs, the Kuga and the EcoSport, in China in the next few months, according to its statement.

GM, which plans to invest as much as $7 billion in the five years to 2015 in China, is banking on the world’s largest vehicle market to retain its global sales crown from Toyota.

Bob Socia, a former vice president of global purchasing and supply chain, took over as China chief on Oct. 1 from Kevin Wale, who retired.

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