China Becomes World's most Important Auto Market

    May 2, 2013


    From VOA Learning English, this is the Economics Report.

    China is strengthening its image as the most important market for the auto industry. Chinese auto sales are up 13 percent from one year ago. Industry observers are predicting total sales of over 20 million vehicles this year.

    By comparison, a little more than 15 million vehicles are expected to be sold in the United States. The importance of the Chinese market could be seen last month at the Shanghai auto show, industry representatives there were showing products design to meet China's growing demand for luxury cars, and larger vehicles.

    Dave Schoch is with Ford Motor company. He welcomed the chance to meet with thousands of possible car buyers.

    "So you've got 30 million customers out there, all with different tastes and different affordability levels. And what Ford wants to do is bring the power and leverage of our global line-up, you know from small to medium to large, into China."

    However, competition can be fierce. Dieter Zetsche is the chairman of the German Auto manufacturer Daimler AG.

    "We are increasing our local content here in this country. And next month we are opening the first engine plant with the capacity of 250,000 units outside of Germany for Mercedes engines."

    Many Chinese see cars as a sign of success. Yale Zhang is with automotive foresight -- an industry group. He says the rising demand for top quality automobiles is a sign of China's rise as an economic superpower.

    "This market is becoming more like European or American style." Demand has been especially high for larger sport utility vehicles (SUV's).

    Karsten Engel is head of the BMW group in China. He says the spaces insides of SUV's appeal to the newly rich, although some will probably never drive them.

    "The ultimate driving machine, you probably experience a lot from the rear seat with your driver, so you need more space, you want more space. You want to have the possibility to work in the car."

    That's something Stefan Brungs understands. He is the marketing director for the automaker Bugatti's.

     "This is what the Chinese have learned and perceived as luxury -- to sit in the back and be chauffeured."

    The demand for larger cars is strong, yet environmental issues and fuel concerns are leading to increased interest in vehicles with better fuel economy.

    Nissan's Asia Vice President Andy Palmer: "Four years ago, when we introduced the concept of the electric car, most of our colleagues in the industry thought that we had lost our minds. Now it doesn't look so stupid, you know?"

    For now, observers say new hybrid and electric technology is not a major force in the Chinese market. New information shows sales of SUV's are up nearly 50 percent from a year ago, and experts says SUV sales are  likely to double by 2015.

    And that's the Economics Report, I'm Christopher Cruise.