July 23, 2012 The Economic Times (Beijing) – China, the world’s top automaker, has exported 487,900 cars during the first half of this year, registering an impressive growth of 28 per cent despite a weak global economy and sluggish sales.

Statistics released by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) showed that China exported 487,900 cars during January-June, up by 28 per cent year-on- year, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

China became the world’s largest automobile producer and market in 2009 with annual sales of nearly 14 million vehicles.

Though China’s share has grown in the global market, Chinese automakers still face grave challenges in going global, experts said.

Many industrial insiders said that the appreciation of China’s currency and the rising cost of labour and materials have dulled the competitive edge of Chinese auto brands.

Additionally, Chinese companies are plagued by a lack of a clear overseas development strategy, an advanced operational philosophy and the ability to conduct significant research and development, the state media quoted experts as saying.

A senior official at one of China’s top automaker, the Geely Group said his company is ready to expand its European market.

Huang Haitao, deputy general manager of sales at Geely said the company’s exports during the first half were double those of the same period last year, adding that it exported more than 6,500 cars in May and over 10,000 units in June.

In the Russian market, the Chongqing-based LIFAN Group sold 4,545 cars during the first quarter, up by 69 per cent from the same period last year; Chery Automobile’s exports during the period were 2.5 times that of last year and Geely’s exports were 3.65 times, according to the Association of European Business.

Xing Wenlin, vice president of Great Wall Motor (GWM), said his company has been exporting cars to countries like Russia, Australia, Italy, and Chile.

GWM’s exports to Russia hit 20,000 units last year, about 25 per cent of the company’s total exports. The company exported 9,000 units to Russia during the first five months of the year, a growth of 32 per cent year on year.

Russia has long been an important part of GWM’s overseas strategy. The company opened an assembly plant in Bulgaria in February and it aims to further expand its European market with the help of the plant.

Meanwhile, China’s automobile sales hit 9.6 million units in the first half of 2012, up 2.93 per cent year on year, data released by CAAM on Wednesday showed.

Auto output during the period hit 9.53 million units, up 4.08 per cent year on year, it said.

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