• Jan 11th 2010 at 7:01AM
  • 48
What's that Bruce Springsteen song? "Glory Days?" You know where this is going, and if you don't, take a seat. America is no longer the largest auto market in the world. The People's Republic of China is. Mao would be so... proud is not the right word.

Here's the specifics. Before we start, China has around 1.3 billion citizens compared to our 310 million or so souls - let's not forget that. That said, China closed 2009 with consumers buying 13.5 million cars, whereas we sold 10.9 million here in the U.S. Running the numbers, the U.S. demand for cars fell off by 20 percent, whereas the Chinese market charged ahead, up by 40 percent.

Is the playing field totally level? Probably not, as the politburo greased the skids a bit by cutting taxes on vehicles with motors smaller than 1.6-liters. The central planners also encouraged the sales of alternate fuel vehicles, such as what's being offered by BYD. There were also programs in place to assist rural farmers in need of wheels.

Unfair comparison? Maybe, and there are also claims of the Chinese government purchasing and stockpiling vehicles to keep factory output up. Of course, we had Cash-for-Clunkers, federal and state incentives for green vehicles and giant tax loopholes that allow Hummer H2s to be taxed like farm vehicles. Also, the Federal Government, the UAW and Canada owns General Motors. And finally, does being the world's largest car market actually matter? Isn't it akin to having the world's tallest building?

[Source: The Detroit Bureau | Image: Frederick J. Brown/AFP/Getty]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      We would do ourselves a favor to offer similar deals to our buying public, i.e. extend tax breaks from hybrids down to 1.6L and smaller engined cars. I'm a cheap bast, er, engin, er, person that would buy a small car to save $$$ in fuel - the tax break would be added incentive.

      BTW, let's try to do it before the Aveo RS comes out and I buy one. ;)
        • 5 Years Ago
        You missed my point, or I didn't make myself clear enough.

        I believe we should offer breaks on econoboxes to encourage less dependency on oil. I spoke nothing of competing with China; we should merely follow suit with some of their practices to drive buyers to smaller cars.

        Artificially increase demand for good fuel economy in a market where fuel is so cheap (compared to the rest of the world).
        • 5 Years Ago
        Why should we try to compete with the Chinese to see who can buy the most cars? It would make a lot more sense to try and sell our cars to the Chinese than to engage in some sort of bizarre war to see who can drain their bank accounts the fastest.
      • 5 Years Ago
      When Mao and Chou En Lai was running China, Chinese people were using bicycles and only government officals were allowed to have cars and trucks. Many changes have happened when Mao and Chou left.
      • 5 Years Ago
      who cares about china... they made bad quality cars as americans jajaja
      • 5 Years Ago
      Now, as soon as we can figure out how to sell practically turnkey vehicles to China, we can balance out a bit of that trade deficit... conversely, if we can make "Made in America" a sign of quality, maybe we could convince people to pay huge import tariffs for US cars.

      We should also be happy China's putting lots of resources into trains rather than highways - makes the argument for having ones' own car weaker. That said, here's to hoping that it takes the Nano (and its ilk) a while to get to China.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Equal playing field?
      Who gives a crap if it is an equal playing field?
      The funny thing is that everyone thinks us owing the Chinese money is the big problem going forward.
      It is not at all.
      The big problem, as far as the tipping of the scales of power is that the Chinese do understand that the key is to grow the middle class and they are doing it like gangbusters.
      While every move to do likewise here in the states is met with cries of "socialism!".
      The middle class is the whole shooting match.
      You want to grow it and you want to make it prosperous.
      Taking money from the middle class expansion to line the pockets of the rich is short sighted in an extreme.
      The wealthy too would be far better off in the long run if they went the way of investing in the middle class.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Why is it even a "playing field" to see who can consume the most cars? Nobody in their right mind should feel that we have to buy more cars per year than any other country in the world-should we get into a pissing contest about which country eats the most food in the world too? Buys the most clothing?
        Seriously the only sane way to look at this is basically to be happy that the people of China finally have enough money to purchase big-ticket items like cars. Happy since it means that a lot less people are living in poverty, and also happy since China can finally be a large consumer market willing to consume the products we sell-obviously helping GM out a great deal since the Buick Excelle is the #1 car in China.
        Only lunatics would compete to see who can buy the most crap-that's a really perverse way of attempting to compete. Plus, given our significantly smaller population and the fact that people in China didn't already own cars the only way we could compete is if we all drove ourselves further into debt, which is not a great idea.
        • 5 Years Ago

        Actually, I completely agree with you.
        It would be best if every country just concentrated on growing its middle class and we could all be prosperous together.
        Get rid of energy and religious wars and we would be on our way...
        But a lot of people are oh-so-very worried about the US not being THE world power in the future and that power stems from wealth.
        So - a lot of people are very worried about this.
        Ironically, it is the same people (usually) who are worried about this kind of thing that are screaming "socialism" the loudest at any attempt to grow the middle class here at the short term expense of the wealthy.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Good for them.Actualy it will be good for any major geological comodities exporter like Russia, Canada,at the pace China's vehicle growth is, it is unsustainable.They may get eveyone in a car evertualy but they won't have the fuel to run.They can only buy so much exploration intrests, and then what?? By then we will all be in full electric cars, powered by new grids via wind, and nuclear power stations.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Don't you worry, they will. Just look at their military build-up. And check how much resource land Chinese are buying in your own country. How are you going to protect your Canadian resources, with what military? Don't be naive.
        • 5 Years Ago
        About the green revolution, I am not as optimistic as you are, sir.

        Read this article by Thomas Friedman: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/10/opinion/10friedman.html

        China is building the world largest power grid based on solar, wind and nuclear, some of which are using American technologies. They are building about 50 new nuclear reactors in the next 10 years and the rest of the world combined might build 15.

        It's might not a pleasant news to many American readers here. But the fact is, Chinese are doing the right thing, in a pace that much faster than ours.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Why is Autoblog writing about something that nobody gives jack about?

      You closed the article with the question "And finally, does being the world's largest car market actually matter?" Apparently, it matters to you because the whole article was written with the intention of demeriting why China is the largest market in the world now.

      Nobody cares. Whatever personal agenda you may have, keep it to yourself and practice appropriate journalism, i.e. deliver facts. I didn't realize there was a competition between the U.S. and China on who can consume more cars... outside the walls of Autoblog's office, that is.

      This was an annoying article. It rubbed me the wrong way.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Nobody cares that China is the largest car market?? On an automotive blog?!? Guess again. This is very significant news on a number of levels and will have a large impact on the global auto industry over the coming decade, not to mention the world oil supply.

        I don't know if you're in denial or if you're just spouting ignorant drivel. Either way, you seem to completely miss the significance of this story.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Depends how you wanna looks at things, we still have the highest cars bought when you look at the ratio of people living here compared to China....we still consume more with less population...
        • 5 Years Ago
        Right, the key word is "still"
      • 5 Years Ago
      daleam, u know rat ass about China.
      • 5 Years Ago
      This article reeks of typical American sinophobia and jealousy of the rise of China.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @invisiblepigeon3, oh my, how should I tell you this...

        Based on my years of working experience in some major cities of China, I really suggest you start traveling a little bit, reading a little bit, and update your knowledge about the current world. There might be some people brainwashed there (China), even though I haven't seen one from my Chinese coworkers). But for sure you behave like the only one being brainwashed here.

        This is a nice blog with a lot of high level perspectives. Please don't bring it down with your hatrad and ignorance.
        • 5 Years Ago
        No one in the USA is jealous of a pathetic communist, overpopulated s***hole like China. They're a bunch of brainwashed state-run robotic people who wave a red flag and think they're cool www.chinasmack.com is full of them. Why don't you go there and blog with your comrades.
      • 5 Years Ago

      Im glad USA respects human rights and is always full of justice..

      .. maybe NOT.
      • 5 Years Ago
      This is pretty nuts considering China in the next five years will have more high speed rail line than every country on the planet combined.

      The Chinese have been notoriously anti-car even giving people who shun cars for bikes(the non motorised kind) large sums of money.

      China's middle class sits at around 400 million people today(just for the record middle class in this case means a annual household income of over $30,000 US Dollars) and is going to increase to 600 million by 2020 according to analysts from Harvard university.

      This just highlights the death of the "big 3". That phrase is becoming a bit of a joke now with these oh so mighty corporations having to beg for bailouts.

      Either way you can't argue with facts. This is really impressive.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Perhaps the "death of the Big 3" in name only, as GM's China sales rose 67% over last year; they sold about 1.8 million vehicles there, compared to selling about 2.5 million here.
        • 5 Years Ago
        That is a good point Shamdiddly. It is pretty amazing that GM are relying on China for something like 40% of their revenue. When you consider the market is largely untapped it could be a matter of years before GM derives most of its revenue from the Chinese market.

        I just wonder how much of a good thing it is for GM if they are relying on a foreign market for the majority of their profits though as I'd think China are well aware that American car companies are not the only ones interested in selling cars in China and could use their pretty large bargaining chip to get what they want.

        I think with GMs investments in China the Chinese will do the same they did with TGV and the rail companies in that they will take the technology, improve it and use it and sell their version in their own nation.
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