GM's China sales overtake its US market for the first time

General Motors Co's first-half sales in China surpassed those in the US for the first time as the world's fastest-growing major economy propelled global auto demand.

Sales in China by GM and its joint ventures - now owned by the US taxpayer - totalled 1.21 million vehicles in the six months ended 30 June, topping US deliveries of 1.08 million, based on figures reported separately by the Detroit-based company. This would be the first time any overseas market has "consistently outsold" GM's domestic market in the carmaker's 102-year-old history, said Michael Albano, a Shanghai-based GM spokesman.

GM's China auto sales are growing at a blistering pace, up 48.5 per cent over the first half of the year. GM's US sales are also showing improvement - enough to keep its US plants operating during what would normally be a summer shutdown. But the growth is a far more modest 15 per cent in the first half of the year.

Don Johnson, GM's new vice president of US sales operations, said that given the growth rate in China, it's a pretty good bet it will stay ahead of GM's US sales for the remainder of the year. But he's not overly concerned with losing the title.

"There are some market dynamics beyond one's control," he said. "Personally I think that's a good thing that China's growth is helping GM. Our China operation will always play an important role in our company, but fundamentally we're a US company and will always be a US company."

Last year, GM's overall auto sales in China surpassed those of the United States market for the first time. But, while GM has the largest share in both markets, its share in the far more splintered Chinese market is only 13 per cent, compared to its 19 per cent share in the United States.