Autos

GM warns of ongoing challenges in China as sales fall 15% in 2019

Key Points
  • GM's sales in China dropped 15.1% to nearly 3.1 million vehicles last year compared with 2018, including a 13.3% year-over-year drop in the fourth-quarter.
  • GM expects the country's downturn to continue this year and pose additional challenges for the automaker.
  • GM shares were down about 1% mid-morning Tuesday to around $35.50.
General Motors Chairman & CEO Mary Barra (L) and President of General Motors China Matt Tsien attend a press conference in Shanghai, China September 15, 2017.

DETROIT – General Motors expects continued challenges in China after a double-digit sales decline in 2019.

GM's sales in China dropped 15.1% to nearly 3.1 million vehicles last year compared with 2018, including a 13.3% year-over-year fall in the fourth quarter, the Detroit automaker and its joint ventures in China said Tuesday. The sales drop marked the second consecutive year of declines for GM amid a weakening Chinese economy and trade war with the U.S.

GM China President Matt Tsien said the company anticipates the country's slump to continue this year and pose additional challenges for the automaker.

"We expect the market downturn to continue in 2020, and anticipate ongoing headwinds in our China business," he said in a release on Tuesday.

GM shares closed down 1.9% to $35.15 on Tuesday. The stock is up more than 2% over the past 12 months but down around 4% over the last week.

China is the world's largest automotive market and surpassed the U.S. as GM's top-selling market in 2010. Sales in China have become significantly more important for GM in recent years as it has shed other international operations such as Europe, Russia, India and other countries.

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The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers has said vehicle sales may drop 2% to 25.3 million in 2020, which would be a third straight year of declines.

The only bright spot for GM last year in China was Cadillac, which experienced a 3.9% sales increase to nearly 214,000 units. Buick, Chevrolet, and local brands Wuling and Baojun all experienced sales declines of between 5% and 28%.

GM said it remains on track to introduce at least 10 electrified, also known as new energy, vehicles in China from 2016 to 2020.