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China Great Wall targets 70% rise in 09 auto sale

  Chinese automaker Great Wall Motor Co aims for a nearly 70% jump in vehicle sales this year, banking on policy support and new models to boost demand for pick-up trucks and small passenger cars, a senior company executive said on Wednesday.

Great Wall, China’s biggest sport utility vehicle maker which is diversifying into car production, has a target to sell 200,000 vehicles in 2009, up from roughly 120,000 units last year, the executive told Reuters. Vehicle sales rose more than 10% in 2008, said the executive, who asked not to be identified as he is not authorized to speak to the media.

Car sales growth in China, the world’s second-largest auto market, slowed to a single-digit rate in 2008 for the first time in at least 10 years as consumer confidence waned with a slowing economy. To help lure buyers back into showrooms, Beijing recently unveiled a raft of policies, including halving the auto purchase tax for cars with engine sizes below 1.6 liters.

“We plan to roll out 13 new models this year, including 9 with engine size smaller than 1.6 liters. We believe the new policies could be a big help for us,” said the executive.

He added that government subsidies for owners who trade their high-emission farm vehicles for more fuel-efficient and clean ones, announced earlier in the month, could also boost sales of its pick-up trucks, accounting for roughly half of its overall sales in 2009.

Great Wall, also the country’s number one pick-up truck maker, is estimated to sell around 80,000 pick-ups this year, up from about 60,000 units in 2008, he said. The automaker has no plans to lay off staff or cut its output this year, he added. Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd, which makes mostly small cars, said earlier this month it aimed for a 25% rise in car sales this year.


Hit by a faltering economy, General Motors and other Detroit automakers who are relying on federal aid to stave off bankruptcy, are seeking buyers for some of their assets. Potential buyers of US assets include China’s Dongfeng Motor Group Co.

Hunan Changfeng Motor Co, partly owned by Mitsubishi Motor, had shown initial interest in GM’s Hummer brand, but backed off shortly, a source with direct knowledge of the matter, said in August. The Great Wall executive said the firm did not intend to buy US auto assets given current market difficulties.

“We haven’t considered buying US assets. We are a down-to-earth kind of company. We won’t rush into a deal which is beyond our capability,” he said.

Asked about an agreement Great Wall had signed with Chrysler LLC last year, he said no progress had been made so far. Great Wall signed a memorandum of understanding with the US automaker to explore long-term business ties in various areas including distribution, components and technology. (Reuters)