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China Builds More Cars Than North America This Year and Next

China is expected to outstrip North America in auto production for the first time this year and again next year, according to forecasting and analysis firm CSM Worldwide.

China is emerging as an automotive powerhouse. Ford (F) today confirmed it has worked out all but the smallest details of its sale of Volvo Car Corp. to China's Zhejiang Geely Holding Group.

China is also a mainstay for General Motors. GM was the first foreign-based automaker to sell more than 1 million units in a year in 2007. GM expects to sell more than 1.5 million units in China in 2009.

"This has been a year of records for GM in China," said Kevin Wale, president and managing director of the GM China Group. Buick is GM's leading brand in China.

A CSM forecast said Chinese light-vehicle production should be about 10. 7 million in 2009, compared with about 8.6 million in North America. In 2010, Chinese production should again top North America, by about 11.1 million to about 10.5 million, according to CSM.

Assuming demand continues to recover in North America, North America should revert back to outbuilding China until 2015. That's as far out as CSM's publicly available forecast goes. Beyond that, China again starts to outproduce North America, CSM said.

Over the long run, auto sales in China have a lot more room to grow than a mature market like North America. Through 2015, CSM expects the rate of growth in China to slow to a more sustainable pace, after a volatile start to this decade.

Photo: GM

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