SAIC Motor, China’s largest carmaker and top vehicle exporter, said its overseas sales could quintuple to top 1 million units over the next decade, as the local assembler for Volkswagen and General Motors Corp looks increasingly abroad for a market.
“We hope that by 2025, overseas sales comprising a combination of exports and overseas manufacturing could reach a scale measurable by the millions,” SAIC’s chairman Chen Hong said during a break in the legislative meetings this week in Beijing. Chen is a delegate representing Shanghai in the National People’s Congress, as the parliament is called.
The assembler of GM’s Cadillac and Volkswagen’s Passat marques had its best year in 2017, increasing sales by 6.8 per cent to 6.93 million, more than double the Chinese automotive industry’s average growth pace. Overseas sales jumped by almost a third to 170,000 units during the year, making SAIC China’s top vehicle exporter for the second year.
The carmaker has been actively seeking to produce vehicles abroad to gain closer access to customers. It already has manufacturing bases in Thailand, Indonesia and India, research and innovation centres in Britain, the United States and Israel, and 13 sales and marketing offices in the Middle East, South America, Australia and Europe.
The company has budgeted US$100 million for setting up a fund to invest in the US, with a separate project to test autonomous driving in the Silicon Valley, Chen said. in February, SAIC became one of the two companies that obtained a government go-ahead to road test self-driving vehicles on open roads in Shanghai. The other one is start-up NIO, also based in Shanghai.
The owner of Britain’s MG Rover compact car platform, renamed Roewe by SAIC, unveiled a prototype electric vehicle during last year’s Shanghai Auto Show. The sales target for electric vehicles is set at 600,000 units by 2020.
The company is investing in electric vehicles, intelligently connected automobiles and the sharing economy. The Roewe RX5 sports utility vehicle already equipped with Alibaba Group Holdings’ YunOS, enabling it to claim the title of the world’s first internet-connected vehicle in mass production. SAIC will deepen its cooperation with Alibaba, which owns the South China Morning Post, to create the ecosystem of smart transportation, Chen said without elaborating.
“The overseas expansion by Chinese carmakers is focused on exporting mainly to developing markets,” said Cui Dongshu, secretary general of China Passenger Car Association. “Exporting is still the main channel, as they can leverage their production strength” in China, he said.