What a difference a year makes. For the first time in history, China has eclipsed the United States in total vehicle sales for an entire six-month period. Numbers reported by the China Association of Auto Manufacturers (CAAM) show that January-June 2009 domestic sales totaled 6.1 million units -- a gain of 17.7 percent over 2008 -- while the U.S. netted a mere 4.8 million sales, reflecting a 35-percent drop compared to this time last year. CAAM analysts are projecting that the trend will continue on for the last half of 2009 and project that the Chinese industry will approach if not exceed 12 million units. By contrast, the debilitated American market will struggle to reach the 10-million unit threshold by year's end, even with the spate of federal and manufacturer incentives offered from now until then.
According to statistics from the market research firm Autodata Corp., vehicle sales in China first topped those in the U.S. back in January when they tallied 735,000 units against our 659,976 total. While it's going to be a long time before automakers here can even dream about approaching the 16.8 million figure they collectively averaged between 1999-2007 there is some room for optimism. The CAAM credits aggressive government intervention in the form of tax reduction and subsidies for small cars as having been the key drivers for the accelerated sales in there which were led by a 62.9-percent spike in small car volumes. With a bit of luck, similar kinds of financial motivation now in place here should have at least some positive impact on our 2009 totals.