Global Update

China Becomes Largest Vehicle Market


Traffic Jam, China
China has surpassed the United States as the world's largest car market.

Chinese consumers, for the first time, purchased more cars and light trucks than U.S. car buyers. In 2009, China sold 12.8 million cars and light trucks (13.6 million with heavy-duty truck sales factored in) to become the world's largest vehicle market, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

The U.S. market, meanwhile, fell to second with sales of 10.4 million, its lowest level in more than 24 years.

The top beneficiaries of this 46% increase include China's non-domestic brands. GM reports that its sales were up 67% last year to a record 1.83 million vehicles.

Ford sales of both its vehicles manufactured in, and imported to, China increased 44% to 440,619, while VW saw its sales increase 38%. Toyota, meanwhile, experienced a sales jump of 21%, selling 709,000 vehicles.

With only 35 cars per 1,000 people in China (compared to 850 cars per 1,000 in the United States), the largest sales increases have come from consumers in second-tier cities and outlying areas (outside Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou). Government incentives for the purchase of small-engine autos (1.6 liters or less) have also been credited with a flurry of purchases.