Tuesday, January 18, 2011

First Auto became "Third Auto" in 2010

Ever since the Chinese Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) realized people who really need data would be willing to pay for it (graduate students excepted), getting one's hands on sales data has become a bit of a challenge. Whereas in years past one could wait until a few days after the close of the year to get a complete list of China's vehicle sales by manufacturer, now we have to troll Chinese language news releases that dribble out during January.

An interesting phenomenon I have begun to notice is that, the longer it takes an automaker to release
publicly its sales numbers, the greater the likelihood that those numbers aren't very good. A case in point is First Auto Works (FAW), a central state-owned enterprise with a long and storied history as the PRC's first automobile factory, and maker of the iconic Red Flag Limousine used to ferry Party Leaders shouting "同志们好!" (hello, comrades!) in parades.

Even though two of China's largest automakers, Shanghai Auto (SAIC) and Dongfeng, released their 2010 numbers in the first week of January, FAW's numbers did not come out until today, January 18. And while FAW's numbers, by themselves would be the envy of any automaker, they weren't as good as Dongfeng's.

For the longest time, FAW could hold its head high as, not only the first automaker, but also the largest. In the chart below, FAW still held the number one position as recently as 2005, but dropped to second behind Shanghai Auto in 2006. In 2010, FAW dropped to third behind Dongfeng, which, until about 20 years ago, was appropriately named Second Auto Works (SAW).

Vehicle Sales 2005-2010 (thousands of vehicles)

I look forward to conducting more analysis on these numbers as the laggards finally begin to report in. (I'm looking at you, Guangzhou Auto and Brilliance.)