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GM sees China as 2nd-largest market

A top General Motors executive said Sunday that China will soon become the world’s second-largest car market after the United States, beating out Japan.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Calling China the world’s main engine of growth for the automotive industry, a top General Motors executive said Sunday it will soon surpass Japan to become the second-largest car market after the United States.

In five years, China will become Asia’s largest automotive market, pushing ahead of Japan, predicted “Frederick Henderson, Asia-Pacific president for the U.S. auto giant. Henderson was speaking at a meeting of international executives on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, being held in the Thai capital.

“Looking at the next 10 years, we see China being an engine of growth across the world,” Henderson said

GM’s China operations reported a 62.5 percent surge in sales of Buick cars during the first three quarters of 2003 — about 133,000 units — when compared to 2002. The growth has been even more dramatic over the past several years, considering GM sold just 30,000 Buicks in China during all of 2000.

China wants to nurture a world-class auto industry. Imports and auto sales have soared as the government cut tariffs on auto imports and state-run banks boosted auto loans.

But although China’s market is expected to expand to rise to 4 million car sales this year, it’s not the only place where automakers are seeing opportunities in Asia.

Henderson said GM and its rivals also are seeking out business across Southeast Asia, with its 500 million people, and in India, with its 1 billion people.

Automakers have made significant investments in those countries and will continue to do so because of the “very very large business opportunities,” Henderson said.

But he complained that automakers are not able to exploit in the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations as a single market because of high tariffs imposed by some countries, including as Malaysia, on auto imports.

Producers could make more money and consumers could get better deals with freer trade policies, the executive said.