Exclusive: GM thinks big with plans to import large-size SUVs in China


Shanghai (Reuters) – General Motors Co GM.N It plans to sell full-size sports-utility vehicle (SUV) models in China for the first time, and will import several models to expand its product lineup in the world’s largest car market, its China chief told Reuters.

The plan would mark a change for GM, which currently produces all vehicles sold in China in the country, the only major economy to grow this year amid the COVID-19 epidemic.

GM, China’s second-largest foreign automaker, aims to offer four models as it looks to improve its brand image and support sales growth: Chevrolet’s Tahoe and Suburban, Cadillac’s Escalade and GMC Yukon Denali.

The Detroit-based company is showcasing those models at the China International Import Expo, or CIIE, an annual import show in Shanghai that began on Wednesday and runs until next week.

“Our intention is to get customer feedback and find a way to sell these cars in China,” said Julian Blissat, GM’s head of China.

The automaker sees opportunities for such vehicles, partly because Chinese families are expanding, he said.

“We are considering a variety of market sales plans for these vehicles, including online sales, leasing and others,” he said, announcing a detailed timeframe for the plan.

GM’s Buick and Cadillac mid-size SUVs helped the group’s Chinese sales grow 12% in the third quarter this year, a first-quarter increase over the past two years.

But it does not have SUV models, which usually have a third row of seats and have room for six or seven people.

Battle Ground

China, where more than 25 million vehicles were sold last year, is an important battleground for global automakers including Volkswagen AG VOWG_p.DE, Sales versions, largest foreign player by GM and Toyota 7203.T As well as local leaders Geely 0175.HK And the great wall 601633.SS.

The country has seen auto sales in recent months following a COVID-19-induced recession, and officials say they have brought the epidemic under control after it emerged in the central city of Wuhan late last year.

The expansion plan will mark GM’s first official sale of GMC vehicles, a premium brand in the group. Earlier GMC vehicles were sold in the country only through informal gray importers.

Imports, however, will not change GM’s basic production strategy in China. It will still sell vehicles mostly made in China – for now, at least.

“However, we can make other decisions based on where we go,” Blissett said.

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

Blissett said GM expected “a strong November and December” in China following positive October sales. The carmaker is considering exporting China-made electric vehicles globally, he told Reuters.

Company rival from Tesla Inc. TSLA.O To bmw BMWG.DE, Are among a growing number of vehicle manufacturers using China as an export hub for electric vehicles.

Reporting by Yeli Sun and Brenda Goh; Editing by Praveen Char

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