Business - Automotive GM, Ford say China sales growth slows in July

By Joe McDonald

AP Business Writer

BEIJING (AP) -- General Motors and Ford said Tuesday their Chinese sales growth slowed sharply in July in a new sign China's rapid economic expansion is cooling.

Automakers are looking to China, the biggest auto market by number of vehicles sold, to drive revenues amid weak global demand. But growth has fallen since last year, when Beijing boosted demand with tax cuts and subsidies.

General Motors Co. said July sales of its brands in China rose 22 percent over a year ago to 176,645 units. That was less than half the 44.5 percent growth rate for the first seven months of the year.

Ford Motor Co. said sales for its two joint ventures rose 8 percent over a year ago to 38,033 units -- a fraction of Ford's 38 percent growth for the first seven months. Sales of Ford-brand vehicles by its Changan Ford Mazda joint venture fell 6.3 percent from last July.

"After a blistering hot 2009, we are seeing a return to more traditional sales patterns this year," said a Ford statement.

Chinese auto sales growth has declined steadily in recent months and fell from 19.4 percent in June to 17.2 percent in July, the official Xinhua News Agency said Monday, citing the Cabinet's China Automotive Technology and Research Center. It said August sales would likely weaken further.

That adds to signs China's breakneck rebound from the global crisis is slowing after second-quarter economic growth fell to 10.3 percent, down from the previous quarter's 11.9 percent. Indicators of manufacturing activity and other sectors also are pointing toward a cooling economy.

China passed the United States in the first half of 2010 as GM's biggest national market.

GM said July sales were driven by 70.1 percent growth for its Chevrolet brand. Its other brands in China are Cadillac, Buick, Opel, Wuling minivans and FAW-GM trucks.

In July, Ford said its Changan Ford Mazda Automotive Ltd. joint venture sold 18,255 Ford vehicles and 6,656 vehicles under its affiliate Mazda's brand. Ford's Jiangling Motors Corp. joint venture sold 13,122 vehicles.

On Monday, Ford completed the sale of its Swedish unit Volvo Cars to China's Geely Holding Group for $1.5 billion. Ford sold its European brands to raise cash and focus on its mainstay Ford and Lincoln models.

Published: Wed, Aug 4, 2010