General Motors Company (GM) Surges Ahead of Toyota Motor Corporation (ADR) (TM) in China

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So far so good for General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) in China in 2013: General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) announced on Tuesday that its sales in the first two months of the year were up 7.9%.

That's a respectable gain that comes even as key Japanese rivals like Toyota Motor Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:TM) have reported declines, suggesting that General Motors Company (NYSE:GM), powered by solid results for its Buick and Chevrolet brands, could be gaining ground in the world's largest auto market.

General Motors Company (NYSE:GM)GM gains ground as Japanese rivals struggle Not so long ago, the big Japanese automakers seemed poised for success in China, but nationalist feelings sparked by a territorial dispute between China and Japan last year led to sharp declines in sales for Toyota, Honda Motor Co Ltd (ADR) (NYSE:HMC), and Nissan (OTCBB:NSANY).

Toyota's 2013 sales through February were down 13.3% from year-ago totals, suggesting that the Japanese giant – the leader in global sales in 2012 – still has work to do to repair its reputation in China. Honda and Nissan saw 4.1% and 14.1% declines over the same period, respectively.

Automakers doing business in China prefer to report January and February sales as a single combined total because of China's week-long New Year's celebrations, which sometimes fall in January and sometimes in February. Strictly speaking, nearly all automakers saw big increases in January and year-over-year declines in February this year – because those celebrations fell in February in 2013 and in January in 2012.

Meanwhile, General Motors Company (NYSE:GM), and in particular its Shanghai GM joint venture, which sells Buick, Chevrolet, and Cadillac models, has continued its steady growth trajectory so far in 2013.

Continued progress for GM's key brands Shanghai GM's sales were up 12.4% to 255,243 units in the first two months of 2013, a good gain and a record for the period. Highlights included strong sales for the upscale compact Buick Excelle XT hatchback and GT sedan, which saw sales rise more than 20% in February despite the holiday week. The Excelle GT and XT, China-only models that are closely related to the Buick Verano compact sold here in the U.S., have been consistently strong sellers for General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) since their introduction in 2010.

Sales of the Chevrolet Malibu more than doubled in February, GM said, and the brand also saw a 22% gain for its Sail in February. The Sail, the first Chevy designed in and built specifically for the Chinese market, is an entry-level subcompact car that has been one of China's best-sellers since its introduction in 2010.

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