Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

Why China's Car Market Matters To America


Whenever I blog about the Beijing Auto Show I invariably get a slew of e-mails from people saying one of two things: Detroit is a more important auto show and/or who cares about what happens in China.

2010 Beijing Auto Show
Frederic J. Brown | AFP | Getty Images

I'm sure I'll get some more today. With all due respect to everyone's opinion, we should be paying attention to the Beijing Auto Show and what's happening in China.

China has become the #1 auto market in the world, and it will strengthen that position in the years to come. I wouldn't go so far as to say it will dwarf the U.S. Market, but it will be considerably larger.

That's the reason why every auto maker in the world is in China and focused on trying match the success and profits GM has found in the country.

Say what you will about former GM CEO Rick Wagoner, you have to give the man credit for seeing China's potential and laying the groundwork for the automaker to rise to #1 in the world's #1 market.

It says something that President Obama's auto task force didn't touch GM's China business when restructuring the company last year. In fact, as talk of folding the struggling Buick brand was floating around, the task force realized Buick is a powerhouse in China and closing the brand would be a terrible mistake.

So why should the average American care what happens with the Chinese market? Ultimately, the future success of the Big 3 is tied into their success in China.

If they are to thrive, they must win in the world's biggest market. Not only because of the profits that are to be had there, but also because of the economies of scale needed to compete globally. More than ever, Beijing's business is our business.


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