All over the world the enormous growth expectations in China have triggered a new era of commercial optimism in the automobile industry. More than 50 makes are competing for customers — domestic, Japanese, Korean, American and European car manufacturers have built up considerable levels of overcapacity in the past few years. Almost six million cars could be produced every year, although sales in 2004 were only 2.3 million. According to the “China 2010 Automobile Market” study of Mercer Management Consulting, the Chinese market will not achieve or exceed the six million figure until 2009 — however this does not include imported cars.
Nevertheless, the opportunities for growth in China are good. According to the Mercer study the expected average growth in demand up to the year 2010 is 17%, with the middle-class segment showing the strongest growth rates — its market share is expected to increase from its present level of 54% to 63% by the year 2010, corresponding to an annual growth rate of 21%. However, in the opinion of the Mercer experts this segment will be the one with the toughest competition. Eight foreign (Buick, Citroen, Honda, Mazda, Nissan, Toyota and VW) and four domestic manufacturers (Chery, Suzuki, Wuling and Xiali) are currently in a good starting position to be among the frontrunners. In the luxury class the market, growing at a rate of 13%, is largely divided up. According to Mercer, Audi lead the way among the premium manufacturers in terms of local production, followed by the higher-positioned imported cars of BMW and Daimler-Benz. So far Lexus and Volvo have lagged considerably behind these “Champions.”