The Competition Continues

If anyone imagines that Chinese car companies are going to be satisfied with simply serving their home markets, then they ought to get a reality check—stat.

The Competition Continues

Here is a list of the top-10 passenger car sales for a certain country from LMC Automotive (lmc-auto.com) through last October:

 

 Brand               October        Δ          YTD               Δ          YTD share

 Volkswagen      220,363        6%     2,091,771      18%          15.5%

 Hyundai             81,410       ‐2%        854,913       21%           6.3%

 Toyota                76,451    222%        705,544         4%            5.2%

 Buick                  69,852      16%        675,513        17%           5.0%

 Nissan                81,896    199%        654,078         0%            4.9%

 Chevrolet           63,359        9%        585,592        3%            4.3%

 Honda                75,193     200%       565,326       16%            4.2%

 Ford                   71,651       62%        552,460        71%           4.1%

 Kia                     48,172         2%        473,985        17%           3.5%

 Audi                   44,181       21%       412,942        20%           3.1%

If we look at this from the point of view of the brands, it seems familiar.  But given that Volkswagen is at the top of the list, it is fairly obvious that this isn’t the U.S. market.  To say nothing of the fact that Buick is outselling Chevy, and that Ford is eighth on the list.

Where is this from?  Germany?  Probably not, given that there is no evidence of Mercedes or BMW.  England?  The numbers are way out of line for that market, even though it improved in 2013.

The answer is China.

Yes, VW is the number-one brand in China.

What I find to be all the more remarkable is that when you look at the list of names, there is none that is Chinese-market specific.

A couple of points on that, however.  One is that while the vehicles that are available from the U.S., European, Korean, and Japanese nameplates are often familiar, they are just as often modified for the Chinese market, with a nearly de rigueur change being extra length for the comfort of the rear passengers, as many of the cars tend to have drivers who aren’t the owners.

Second, those passenger cars are almost exclusively locally built.  According to LMC, the top-10 passenger vehicle manufacturers are:

  1.   1. Shanghai VW
  2.   2. FAW VW
  3.   3. Shanghai General Motors
  4.   4. Beijing Hyundai
  5.   5. Dongfeng Nissan
  6.   6. Great Wall Motor
  7.   7. Changan Ford
  8.   8. Dongfeng Yueda Kia
  9.   9. Dongfeng Peugeot Citroen
  10. 10. Geely Group

So the brands themselves may be international in nature, but the build is not.

According to LMC, “in fear of car purchasing limits potentially being implemented in some major cities amid worsening air quality, buyers are attempting to acquire car plates as early as possible.”

China’s light vehicle market should end the year around 22 million units, far greater than the number in the U.S. or the E.U.  Which explains the keen, continued attention by the likes of VW, Hyundai, Toyota, GM, etc. on the Chinese market.

This is not to say that there aren’t Chinese companies that are developing and selling products, because if we extend the list of the top brands to 20, BYD, Chery and Changan are 11, 12 and 13; Great Wall and Dongfeng are 15 and 16, and Haval is 19.  So it is clear that these companies are honing their lineups—as well as their production skills.  Consider, for example, the case of Dongfeng, which is working with Nissan, Kia, Peugeot Citroen, and Honda.  Imagine what that company is learning about automotive manufacturing.

If anyone imagines that Chinese car companies are going to be satisfied with simply serving their home markets, then they ought to get a reality check—stat.

Consider this.  According to Consumer Reports (consumerreports.org), when it comes to laptop computers, Lenovo is #1 in 10- to 13-inch detachable laptops, #2 in 11- to 13-inch convertible laptops, and #1 in 14-inch laptops (actually this one is a tie with Vizio).  And Lenovo is well represented in recommended models lower on the various Consumer Reports’ lists.  As you may recall, Beijing-based Lenovo acquired IBM’s PC business back in 2005. Here it is, a company that is competing with the likes of Apple, Toshiba, Dell, Sony, and others, and doing damned well.

This is not to say that laptop computers are cars, but for all of you who think “No one will ever buy a Chinese car who isn’t in China” ought to think again.

People often blithely say, “This is a global market.”  Yes, it is.  And the competition is going to get harder before it becomes easier—and it is not likely ever to become easier.  Everybody in this industry needs to elevate their game—assuming they want to stay in the game.