China's carmakers look overseas as domestic sales sputter

Updated: 2012-08-09 10:50

By Li Fangfang (China Daily)

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China's carmakers look overseas as domestic sales sputter

A Great Wall Motors Co Ltd's car on show at an auto fair in Amman, Jordan. [Photo/Xinhua]

Chinese automakers are aggressively expanding in overseas markets to weather their shrinking market share at home amid the current market slowdown.

According to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, China exported 487,900 vehicles in the first half, a 28-percent year-on-year increase. Monthly exports in May and June both exceeded 100,000 units.

The automakers' continued overseas expansion led the association to predict that their total exports could surpass 1 million units in a year for the first time in 2012, showing an year-on-year increase of 27.48 percent.

The annual export revenue is expected to reach a record $17.47 billion this year, surging by 59.37 percent over last year.

In 2011, China's automobile exports rose 49.99 percent year-on-year to 850,000 units. The total export revenue for the first time passed a $10 billion to reach $10.96 billion, a 56.82 percent year-on-year increase.

The nation's five leading automakers - led by Chery Automobile Co, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group and Great Wall Motors Co Ltd - contributed 74.4 percent of the total exports.

The recent growth in exports stood in stark contrast to Chinese automakers' struggling sales performance in the domestic market.

According to CAAM, China's domestic automobile market hit the brakes in 2011, growing only 2.5 percent year-on-year, after booking impressive annual sales growth of 46 percent in 2009 and 32 percent in 2010.

The domestic market continued the slowdown in the first half, rising only 2.9 percent year-on-year. Chinese passenger vehicle brands sold 3.15 million units, a 0.16 percent year-on-year decrease.

Their total market share of 41.39 percent was a 3 percentage point decline from last year, and compares with more than 50 percent of market share in 2010. Their passenger car market share withered to less than 30 percent.

The difficulties in the domestic market have pushed them to find new markets overseas.

Chery, which has maintained its leadership in China's passenger vehicle export for nine years, said it exported 92,494 units in the first half of the year, a 28.8 percent year-on-year increase. Since the first Chery car was sent overseas in 2001, the company's total exports have exceeded 700,000 units.

It aims to export 200,000 vehicles in 2012.

Geely, which made its name internationally by taking over Swedish luxury car brand Volvo in 2010, is speeding up the overseas expansion of its own brands.

In the first half, the Zhejiang automaker's exports surged by 210 percent from last year, supported by export of more than 10,000 units in June.

It hoped to double its 2011 export figure to more than 80,000 units this year.

Great Wall reported an export volume of 47,719 units in the first half, increasing 40 percent year-on-year.

The Hebei automaker has set a goal of tripling its exports to more than 300,000 vehicles by 2015, from this year's 100,000 units goal. Until then, exports are expected to account for 20 percent of Great Wall's sales.

Dongfeng Motor, China's third-largest automaker, recently announced plans to increase its overseas sales from 68,000 units in 2011 to 300,000 by 2016.

Analysts said that Chinese automakers are facing significant challenges as foreign auto brands - including luxury brands - aggressively grab market share in the world's largest auto market and speed up their pace of expansion in more second- and third-tier cities.