Obama Hopes GM's China Success Rubs Off Back Home

In China, GM and its joint venture partners announced this month that they had sold more than 1.5 million vehicles this year -- a record.

US President Barack Obama had a chance on Nov. 16 to compare notes with Chinese officials on one of his administration's major investments that is doing better here than at home: General Motors.

At the start of talks with Obama, Shanghai Communist Party Secretary Yu Zhengsheng commented on GM's "fantastic performance" in China, the world's largest car market, and how that success was helping the U.S. firm at home.

"Absolutely," the U.S. leader replied. "I think they can learn from their operations here in terms of increasing sales back in the United States."

In China, GM and its joint venture partners announced this month that they had sold more than 1.5 million vehicles this year -- a record -- with January-October sales up 59.8% from the first 10 months of 2008.

GM said it sold 166,911 vehicles in October in China -- more than double the number sold in the same month last year.

In the U.S. in October, the automaker sold 177,603 new vehicles, up 4% from the same month in 2008 -- and its first year-on-year gain at home since January 2008.

GM is the market leader in China in a joint venture with the SAIC Motor Corp Ltd, in which government-owned Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation Group has a 78.9% stake. Yu is Shanghai's highest-ranking official.

China's total car sales outstripped those in the U.S. for the first time in January to make the Asian giant the world's largest car market.

Obama has described the U.S. federal government as "reluctant shareholders" in GM, with a 60% after helping the car company emerge from a 40-day bankruptcy reorganization in July.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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