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GM To Add 600 Chinese Dealerships In 2012


General Motors is making a bigger effort in what's become the world's biggest car market. At the Beijing Auto Show this week, GM said it plans to open 600 new dealerships in China this year. GM is trying to grow Chinese sales while they still can.

NPR's Frank Langfitt reports from Shanghai.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: GM's expansion would bring the number of dealerships up to 3,500 in China. That's not too far off the 4,400 dealerships it has in the United States. In the last decade, Chinese auto sales have exploded, driven by rising incomes and intense demand.

In 2010 alone, total vehicle sales here leapt by a third. That staggering growth, though, is not expected to continue.

Last year, Chinese bought a record 18.5 million light vehicles and commercial trucks. But growth fell to under 3 percent. In addition, China is considering banning foreign brands from government fleet purchases. The measure is seen as a way to boost domestic companies.

None of this seems to faze GM CEO Dan Akerson, who said at the Beijing Auto Show that his company is still betting on long-term growth here. GM is the leading foreign car company in China, a country of 1.3 billion people - the vast majority of whom have never owned a car.

Frank Langfitt, NPR News, Shanghai. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent. He covers the UK and Ireland, as well as stories elsewhere in Europe.