“The Truth About Cars”

The China market for all products is significantly larger than most people realize. That’s because many analysts only consider the high price/high technology segment of the market in China, that part of the market that most resembles those in more developed markets. But, the total market for any product in China is actually much larger when the low price/low technology segment is also taken into account.

Readers of Managing the Dragon will recognize this analysis because it is one I use frequently to explain what appear to be anomalies in the China market.

Needless to say, I was delighted to read Bertel Schmitt’s article in The Truth About Cars where he cited my analysis of China’s car industry to explain why analysts keep under estimating the strength of its growth. Here is what he wrote:

A week ago, we swam against the trend of China analysts who predicted a 30-40 percent rise in March new car sales in the Middle Kingdom. By using our patent-pending TTAC forecasting methodology, we projected China’s sales rising between 50 and 60 percent in March. The numbers are in. We were wrong.

The true number? 63 percent.

March sales in China totaled 1.26 million passenger cars, up from 942,900 sold in February, according to data provided by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers [via Reuters.] These are passenger vehicles, excluding commercial vehicles, which could add another 250,000 to 300,000 to the number.

The March number is even more surprising as we are comparing to a high base in March 2009, when Chinese sales begun to skyrocket. This augurs for a record year. If the trend continues, China could break the all time sales record of 17.4m units sold in the U.S. in the year 2000.

While many might argue that this suggests a bubble economy, Bertel uses my analysis to explain why this isn’t the case.

Forget any bubble talk. This is not a market where a couple has three cars in the garage. China has just begun to motorize. There are 1.3b to 1.5b people in China. It’s like a dry sponge sucking up water. An estimated 400m to 500m already can afford a car. That number is rising rapidly.

Jack Perkowski, China visionary and author of the book Managing the Dragon, wrote a few months ago:

“China’s auto industry will continue to show rapid rates of growth for many years because China’s total demand for transportation is already much bigger than most people think. I would argue that China’s transportation industry is actually 50 million vehicles per year, not the 13.6 million vehicles sold in 2009, or even the 15 million vehicles that might be sold this year. They represent only one part of the market.”

That other part is motorcycles, farm engines, and three-wheelers with a one cylinder engine diesel engine. Once these people have the money, they buy a car.

Amen, Bertel. And many thanks for the reference!

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