A Comparison of the Automobile Market in China and USA

China is one of the world’s leading market for auto manufacturers. As an emerging country with a population of over 1.3 billion the market is huge and the demand for cars from the growing middle-class is rising every year. As a result most of the world’s top auto makers have a presence in China.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal earlier this year, 17.9 million passenger cars were sold in China last year. Consulting firm IHS expects sales to jump by 10% this year and 8% next year.

The following chart shows the total annual auto sales by year:

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China Auto Sales by Year

Source: Car Makers Renew Efforts to Woo First-Time Buyers in China, The Wall Street Journal, April 18, 2014

The U.S. has a smaller population relative to China. With a population of over 316.0 million the market for cars is still large but saturated. While China had a sales volume of 17.9 million passenger cars in 2013, the sales of light vehicles reached 15.5 million in the U.S. according to Auto Alliance data. Light vehicles include cars and light trucks. This year the industry expects to sell over 16 million units. As of September total US sales has reached 12.4 million per WSJ data.

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US_Sales 2007 to 2013

Historical US_Sales 2007 to 2013


Source: Auto Alliance

Though the total annual sales in China was higher than in the U.S. last year it does not tell the whole story. Despite the growing sales figures the auto penetration rate in China is much lower than in the U.S. and hence the growth potential is excellent in China. The two charts below from a presentation by emerging markets guru Dr.Mark Mobius illustrates this clearly:

Auto Penetration Rate in US, India and China

Auto Market Growth potential in China and India


Source:  Emerging Markets Outlook, Oktober 2013, Franklin Templeton Investments

It remains to be seen if the automobile boom in Communist China continues moving forward since the state is now trying to restrict car ownership in response to the growing pollution problem.

Some of the global auto makers with big market shares in China include Volkwagen AG(VLKAY), Ford Motor Co.(F), General Motors Company(GM), Honda Motor Co. Ltd (HMC), Toyota Motor Corporation(TM), etc.

Disclosure: No Positions

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