Cadillac, Buick help GM to first China sales growth in two years

General Motors Co (GM) GM.N on Monday said continued market recovery from the COVID-19 crisis helped its China vehicle sales grow 12% on year in July-September, marking the Detroit automaker’s first Chinese quarterly sales growth in two years.

The second-biggest foreign automaker in China by units – after Germany’s Volkswagen AG VOWG_p.DE – said on Monday it delivered 771,400 vehicles in China in the third quarter. That followed a 5% fall in the second quarter, when parts of China were still emerging from virus-busting lockdown measures.

GM has a Shanghai-based joint venture with SAIC Motor Corp Ltd 600104.SS making Buick, Chevrolet and Cadillac vehicles. It has another venture, SGMW, with SAIC and Guangxi Automobile Group, producing no-frills mini-vans and which has started manufacturing higher-end cars.

Sales rose 26% for cars under its mass-market Buick brand in the third quarter versus the same period a year earlier, while those of premium brand Cadillac jumped 28%, GM said in a statement. Sales of its mass-market Chevrolet marque fell 20%.

Sales of no-frills brand Wuling grew 26%, whereas those of mass-market Baojun vehicles tumbled 19%.

“GM’s compact models returned to four-cylinder engines and that helped sales growth,” said LMC Automotive senior analyst Alan Kang, referring to an attempt to market cleaner but noisier three-cylinder versions. “Cadillac also has a more complete lineup this year.”

China’s biggest automakers’ association expects overall car sales to grow by double digits in July-September versus a year earlier. Makers such as Toyota Motor Corp 7203.T, Honda Motor Co Ltd 7267.T and Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd 0175.HK saw sales jump in the just-finished quarter.

GM has seen its China sales suffer in a crowded market and slowing economy. To revive its fortunes, it plans to have electric vehicles (EVs) make up over 40% of new models in the next five years in China, where the government promotes greener cars.

The automaker’s Wuling Hong Guang MINI EV, a micro two-door EV with a starting price of 28,800 yuan ($4,200), was China’s biggest-selling EV in August.

GM’s sales fell 15% in 2019 from a year earlier to 3.09 million vehicles. The automaker delivered 3.65 million vehicles in 2018 and 4.04 million in 2017.