General Motors continues to have problems selling cars and trucks in the United States without using giant incentives, as the October sales report proved. But there is good news elsewhere. And there are a couple of Saturn dealers wandering around Las Vegas who feel good about the future.
In China, the automaker's sales are growing nearly three times as fast as the whole market.
For the first nine months of the year, GM's sales in China shot up 28 percent above the same period last year, while the market as a whole expanded just 10 percent. Because of the spectacular growth, GM may challenge traditional China leader Volkswagen for the sales crown in the world's third-largest light-vehicle market.
Sales growth in China has slowed this year because the government ordered tighter retail credit to keep that part of the economy from overheating. But competition has been intense and is just now easing up to the point where automakers will be able to raise prices, which is always good news for automakers.
In America, that almost seems like a fantasy.
Good news for GM in China seems distant to what's happening at this week's SEMA show in Las Vegas, unless you're a Saturn dealer who came to the desert to look at new products.
GM's display in Las Vegas features mostly customized small vehicles, such as Chevy Cobalts, Pontiac Solstices and even Pontiac G6s. That's because they're the freshest vehicles, which GM is trying to support.
But there also is a Saturn Sky roadster and a Saturn Aura sedan on the stand. And among the 2,000 or so franchised new-vehicle dealers expected to attend SEMA this year are at least a couple of highly motivated Saturn dealers who told me they can't wait to get the Sky next spring, the Aura next summer and the Outlook crossover next fall. They like the new products a lot, especially the Aura.
Dealers are an optimistic breed, so sometimes you need to discount their enthusiasm.
But based on the automaker's product plans, these dealers are adding GM franchises on the West Coast.
It's not a sign from heaven that GM will get back to 30 percent of the United States, and it certainly isn't scientific, but watching where dealers invest in new dealerships might be a good leading indicator.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at