China’s Round-The-Clock Auto Factories Still Cannot Meet Demand

Monday, January 18, 2010

Jan. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Nissan Motor Co.’s factory in central China is making cars almost 24 hours a day, yet Pan Xiaowei still waited three months for her new Tiida compact to arrive at the dealership.
“It wasn’t like this a couple of years ago,” said Pan, 34, whose husband runs a property development company in Shandong province. “We used to buy and get a car straight away, and now you have to pre-order and wait.”
China overtook the U.S. last year as the world’s largest automobile market with sales surging 46 percent to 13.6 million, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Nissan, Ford Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. are running their Chinese factories at full capacity, with overtime and weekend shifts, and still can’t deliver enough cars.
“Based on our current growth rate and planning assumptions, the capacity of our two facilities will not be able to accommodate the expected future demand for our products,” Nigel Harris, general manager of Ford’s venture with Chongqing Changan Automobile Co., said in an e-mail.
About 99.7 percent of cars made in China through November last year were sold, the association said. Foreign automakers are expanding assembly lines as buyers in secondary cities beyond Beijing and Shanghai benefit from government subsidies of at least 5 billion yuan ($732.5 million), a sales tax cut and 8.9 percent economic growth.
Rural Consumption
Car sales have been fueled by demand in rural areas where the growth rate exceeded that of urban regions last year for the first time, Trade Minister Chen Deming said in a Jan. 13 interview with state broadcaster CCTV.
“Spending power in the medium and small cities is rising, and demand there has surpassed those in bigger cities,” said Wei Tuo, a Henan province dealer for Nissan’s joint venture with Wuhan-based Dongfeng Motor Group Co. “Cars are no longer considered a luxury item but a standard consumer product.”
Wei’s company has about 40 outlets in the central region selling several brands. About 55-60 percent of sales come from middle- and small-sized cities, he said.
Nissan is the No. 1 Japanese automaker in China, with last year’s sales rising 39 percent to 756,000, outselling Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda, according to the three companies. Nissan’s top seller is the Teana.

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