About That GM China Sales Report

The headlines are blaring how GM sold more cars in China, a first for the corporation, than the United States. Their sales in China alone are up 28.8% from a year ago.

GM's sales in China rose 28.8% last year to 2,351,610 vehicles, GM said Monday. U.S. sales rose just 6.3% to 2,215,227

Unfortunately the financial press then tries to tie those sales to mean more U.S. jobs. That is simply not the case.

The company said the expansion will generate 750 jobs for the Flint plant, which makes Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups and has been operating on two shifts per day. The last time the plant worked around the clock was in the second quarter of 2008.

GM will fill the shift by recalling laid off workers who will start arriving in the second quarter. It expects to hire no new employees.

The Flint factory employs about 2,100 hourly and salaried workers. It made 115,000 trucks last year.

Last year, GM sold 8.39 million autos. Toyota is still #1 with 8.42 million car sales.

What the press and GM are not telling you is that sales in China are extensively through Joint Ventures. A joint venture means a Chinese company is partnering with GM, but they have their own plants, their own factories, their own manufacturing and their own workers.

As an example of the media spin, recently an export deal to China of $400 million in vehicle exports and $500 million in components over two years was announced.

What they are not telling you is this very JV, or Chinese company, made & sold 1.03 million of the 2.35 million GM cars sold in China.

GM has other Joint Ventures too. That means they do not own that company outright, and even can have a minority stake.

GM makes vehicles including Buick Excelle and Regal cars as well as Chevrolet Lova compacts with its Chinese joint-venture partner SAIC Motor Co. It also makes Sunshine minivans at SAIC- GM-Wuling Automotive Co.

The SAIC-GM-Wuling venture’s deliveries, which are included in GM’s monthly sales reports, are excluded from tallies by some industry analysts because GM owns 34 percent of the venture, while SAIC Motor has a 50.1 percent stake.

The billion dollar question is what are GM's gross receipts in China, both directly and in terms of percentages of GM manufactured goods in the United States.

GM makes about $3k per car sold in the United States. Let's for an exercise, since I cannot locate the breakdown of profit per unit by country and national origin, assume GM makes $200 dollars per unit in China. That would be roughly $470 million for China sales in profit per units for the year. Obviously this is way too low.

But it puts these great export deals touted by the White House in perspective. They are, a drop in the bucket.

Currently GM only has 52,000 employees in the United States while the Chinese workforce is 32,000 and growing.

Even if one took GM's gross on 2,351,610 cars to be $200 dollars, that's $470 million. If one assumes the profit-per-unit in China is $1000 dollars, it's $2.3 billion a year. Since GM had a $1.96 billion profit for Q3 2010 and it's selling more cars in China than the United States, just for Q3, we're looking at billions in profit from China. Bottom line, GM is manufacturing in China, partnering with Chinese state owned companies, creating an after market manufacturing sector in China, just as they do in Brazil, Mexico and other countries around the globe.

More sales in China is great for GM, but that simply does not translate into huge U.S. exports and more importantly American jobs.

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