Frankfurt car show opens as industry watches China

The automotive world will be out in force for the 64th Frankfurt Motor Show this week but it will have one eye focused on what's happening in the largest car market there is - China - all the while.

It seems something of an anomaly that car makers are gathering in Frankfurt for the biggest event of its kind in Europe, which runs September 15-25, but Chang-an is the only name hailing from China.

The Chongqing-based automaker is showcasing the C201, a small-sized sedan it hopes can help it gain a foothold in the European market.

However, these days it is sales back in mainland China that are the lifeblood of the global car industry, with more than 18 million vehicles being sold there now each year - so while Chinese automakers are keen to expand, they first need to shore up their domestic markets.

The bad news is that sales in China have slowed so far this year, still up 6.4 percent with 9.2 million units moved in the first eight months of the year but well below the heady days of 2009-10 when China's car market grew by around 30 and 40 percent respectively.

The strongest sellers in China continue to be MPVs (multipurpose vehicles) - or mini-van like cars - which are up 21.1 percent, while SUVs (up 12.9 percent) and sedans (8.7 percent) also remained relatively strong, according to the China Passenger Car Association.

And while the likes of local carmakers Geely Automobile and Great Wall are this year pushing their brands hard in China it is the major foreign-made cars that still catch the Chinese consumer's eye.

General Motors - the biggest international presence on the Chinese motoring scene - says it has enjoyed sale growth of 13.4 percent so far this year, with 205,885 units sold. And although they are now under the control of the Shanghai GM group, the Buick and Chevrolet brands have picked up a rise of 21.7 percent in 2011, which equates to 98,674 more cars on the road.

Leading the purely "local" challenge has been the Baojun brand of passenger car - designed specifically for the Chinese market by the SAIC-GM-Wuling collaboration - which has enjoyed a sales rise of 8.2 percent, or in layman's terms, 102,959 cars sold.




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