The Sector in China That’s Revving its Engine

chinese auto sectorThe key in China will be the rapid growth of the country’s middle class. In a recent research finding, Credit Suisse predicted that the household wealth in China will double to $35.0 trillion by around 2015, based on achieving sustainable GDP growth at or near the current growth rate.

The extra Renminbi means more cash to spend on non-essential goods and services. This includes furniture, real estate, vehicles, and travel.

I have been a big supporter of the Chinese auto sector. You don’t have to tell General Motors Corporation (NYSE/GM) to go to China and look for growth opportunities. In fact, you don’t have to tell anyone.

The world’s automakers know that, to grow, you need to have a presence in China’s auto sector, whether in a venture with a Chinese company or as a stand-alone manufacturer of vehicles. The auto sector in China remains strong, as the country is the world’s largest auto market, with an estimated 16.5 million vehicles this year, according to the Chinese industry association. Foreign auto companies looking for growth are expanding in China.

General Motors, a rising player in China, reported an 11% year-over-year rise in its November sales to a record monthly 196,990 vehicles. GM and its Chinese partners have sold over two million vehicles in the first 11 months of 2010, well above the company’s U.S. sales.

Germany-based Volkswagen said it would invest about $8.0 billion in China over the next three years. Volkswagen is aiming for sales of two million vehicles by 2018. Japan-based Nissan Motor wants to sell 900,000 vehicles annually by 2012, according to Bloomberg.

And, with only about 41 in 1,000 Chinese owning a vehicle according to some industry pundits, there is clearly ample room for growth, especially as the income levels continue to rise. This trend will continue to drive vehicle sales going forward, to the point where China will likely remain the top auto market in the world.

The area of expensive or luxury vehicles is also booming in China. The middle class is growing at a staggering pace, with more millionaires being created. When consumers find wealth, a big-ticket item they buy is a vehicle. The richer they become, the more they spend on vehicles. The sale of luxury cars is surging in China, according to auto industry researcher J.D. Power and Associates. The rate is well above what we are seeing in other industrialized countries.

There are numerous ways to play the Chinese auto sector. You can buy an auto company with exposure to China, such as the major global automakers. Alternatively, you can also buy Chinese auto-parts makers. Some Chinese auto plays that I have covered in the past include Brilliance China Automotive Holdings (OTCBB/BCAHY.PK), China Automotive Systems Inc. (NASDAQ/CAAS), Wonder Auto Technology, Inc. (NASDAQ/WATG), SORL Auto Parts, Inc. (NASDAQ/SORL), and AutoChina International Limited (NASDAQ/AUTC).