Thursday, March 04, 2010
The one thing about the Chinese economy that makes them hard to bet against over the long term is the simple fact that they're moving up off of such a low base when it comes to developing a robust consumer class, the latest evidence of such coming in this USA Today story about rising auto sales and the nation's growing fascination with private transportation.
Ahead of the lunar new year holiday that rates as this nation's biggest party, buyers packed the Huaxiang car market in southwest Beijing. Some wanted to drive home a new car in a physical sign of their success in the soon-ending Year of the Ox; others wanted to trade up before the new Year of the Tiger that began Feb. 14.You can have a lot of booms and busts and both businesses and the government can make lots of costly mistakes, however, when you've still got decades of rising standards of living ahead of you, that is one very strong wind at your back.
Lu Guozhi, 50, a retired railway official, helps a friend shop for a car. They eye a Geely CK sedan, a popular Chinese brand, which comes with an attractive price tag — 39,800 yuan, or about $5,800 U.S. — and qualifies for a government tax break for smaller-engine cars. "I'd prefer a BMW, but I'll never be able to afford one," says Lu, who bought his first car a year ago. The Geely's "exterior looks good, and it doesn't use much fuel."
Slightly more than a decade since China's auto market took off, it's at an enviable place: It overtook the U.S. last year as the world's largest auto market. The upheaval ended more than a century of dominance by Detroit's auto industry.