Forecast: China: GM sees sales up 5 percent this year image

GM expects China’s vehicle market to grow about 5 percent this year to 19-19.2 million units, the company’s China President Kevin Wale said on Wednesday.

Speaking to a group of reporters, Wale said sales of mini-commercial vehicles and trucks in China have declined this year due to the withdrawal of government stimulus measures introduced during the recent global financial crisis.

However, sales of passenger vehicles, excluding large buses, should grow by double-digits, he said, after jumping by a third last year to 13.7 million vehicles.

With China’s booming economy raising personal income, the country’s auto market will likely continue to offer a “tremendous upside potential,” said Kevin Wale, GM’s head of operations in China.

On the same time, the executive said that GM is seeking to buy back a 1 percent stake in its originally 50-50 joint venture, Shanghai GM, that it sold to SAIC in 2009 for $84.5 million as it faced bankruptcy. That would end SAIC’s majority control and allow GM to reclaim its equal share.

The announcement was made after GM and SAIC Motor Corp have agreed a joint venture to develop and build electric vehicles and their parts in China.

The cooperation agreement was signed during a meeting of the U.S. automaker’s board in Shanghai — a visit underscoring China’s importance to the company’s future. It was the GM board’s first meeting outside of the U.S.

China overtook the United States to become the world’s top auto market in 2009 and has been increasingly important for global carmakers like GM, which have been hurt by slowing markets in America and Europe.