Volkswagen could be on pace to outsell General Motors in China after posting a strong third quarter. Overtaking GM in the world's largest car market would be a major step in VW's goal of becoming the world's largest automaker by 2018.
VW announced on Thursday that its third quarter sales in China increased 21 percent to 704,991 vehicles, besting GM's 664,765 unit quarter. GM still leads VW by 77,000 units in China, but it's possible VW could erase that deficit by the end of 2012.
“Being No. 1 in China means a lot to their global development,” Harry Chen, an analyst with Guotai Junan Securities Co. in Shenzhen, told Bloomberg. “Volkswagen and GM will go through a period of time fighting at close quarters in China and they may take turns grabbing the lead.”
VW was able to make gains in China thanks to a revamped lineup and a general market backlash over Japanese vehicles.
VW recently released new versions of its Lavida and Audi A4L sedans, and the automaker's overall lineup remains relatively fresh. In comparison, most of GM's China products are now 2-3 years old and nearing the end of their life cycles.
A territorial dispute has spurred an anti-Japan sentiment throughout China, which has sent typical Toyota and Honda buyers looking for new vehicles. Those buyers have largely flocked to VW showrooms due to the automaker's newer vehicle lineup.
VW is planning to invest $18 billion in China over the next four years in order to become the country's best-selling car brand.