Geely’s China sales pass Japanese rivals as automaker chases VW, GM

BEIJING — Geely Automobile Holdings surpassed its top three Japanese rivals to become the third-largest automaker in China after Volkswagen Group and General Motors, helped by models that appeal to the nation’s young consumers.

Reporting a 54 percent jump in net income for the six months through June, the automaker said in a filing Wednesday that its vehicle sales this year will beat its target of 1.58 million units. Geely now trails only VW and GM in China, after overtaking Nissan, Honda and Toyota in the period.

Controlled by billionaire Li Shufu, Geely is among Chinese automakers seeking to dominate the auto industry as newer technologies such as electrification and automation define the future of transportation. With an eye on leadership in its key market, Geely has been expanding, offering vehicles such as those produced under the Lynk & CO brand jointly developed with Volvo.

“In view of an even stronger new products pipeline ahead, the Group should be in a good position to secure higher market share in China’s passenger vehicle market in the near future,” Geely said in its filing.

The mainland market share of the company increased to 6.4 percent in the first half, from 5 percent in 2017. It sold 766,630 vehicles in the period, beating Nissan’s 720,447. Geely sold 1.25 million vehicles in 2017.

Spending spree

Li has also been active overseas, expanding his automotive empire. After his purchase of Volvo in 2010 from Ford, he snapped up stakes in the iconic British sports car maker Lotus Cars and Malaysia’s Proton Holdings. In February this year, he disclosed a 9.7 percent stake in Daimler, emerging as the largest shareholder in the company.

Although cuts in subsidies for electric vehicles and the tariff war between the world’s biggest economies will weigh on industry sales in the second half, the company will build on the momentum from the first half, it said.

Chinese car sales slumped for a second consecutive month in July as a slowing economy and a tit-for-tat trade war with the U.S. kept consumers away from showrooms. Retail sales of cars and light trucks fell 5.4 percent to 1.6 million units in July, the China Passenger Car Association said. That compares with a 3.7 percent drop in June, trimming the year-to-date growth in the world’s biggest automobile market to 2 percent.

Geely has been far outpacing the broader market by posting 43 percent increase in its sales in the first seven months this year.

Net income at Geely rose to 6.67 billion yuan ($975 million) from 4.34 billion yuan a year ago, according to the filing. Revenue jumped 36 percent to 53.7 billion yuan.

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