BEIJING -- China has overtaken Japan as the world's second-largest automotive market, behind the United States.
Japan still produces far more vehicles than China. But that, too, will change in the next five to six years, analysts say.
China's light-vehicle sales, including imports, grew 27.0 percent to 3.6 million units in the first six months of 2006 compared with the same period in 2005.
Japan sales fell 1.2 percent to 3.0 million, according to the Automotive News Data Center. China is expected to hold its lead for the entire year.
Eye-popping growth in China will continue, said Kevin Wale, president of GM China, at a media event in Detroit last week. GM predicts sales in China will reach 14 million a year in 2015, compared with 7 million this year, including commercial vehicles.
The two next fastest-growing markets, India and the United States, will add fewer than 2 million a year from 2005 to 2015.
On the production side, Japanese automakers far outpaced their Chinese counterparts. In the first five months of 2006, Japanese light-vehicle production totaled 4.7 million units. That compares with total production of 2.8 million vehicles in China in the first six months. But momentum is on China's side.
Japanese automakers are opening assembly plants in other countries, while Chinese automakers are adding capacity at home to serve domestic and export markets.
Charles Child and James B. Treece contributed to this report
You may e-mail Alysha Webb at [email protected]