China’s auto imports double – mostly Japanese and German models

USA Today – If you think America is too addicted to foreign cars, consider China.

Despite a wide choice of Chinese-made cars, China’s imports of foreign cars nearly doubled last year. That’s the good news for the U.S. The bad news? Most of the imports were Japanese and German models, the Associated Press reports. Of course, the import list doesn’t take into account foreign makers that have set up shop making cars in China like the General Motors SUV pictured at top.

The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said car imports jumped 93% last year from 2009 to 813,600 vehicles. By value, imports doubled to $30.64 billion, while China’s vehicle exports rose 40% from a year earlier to a record $51.8 billion.

AP says an explosion in demand and sluggish sales in the recession-stricken West helped China overtake the U.S. as the largest car market by sales of new vehicles in 2009. Plus, the Chinese prize some foreign cars, especially the luxury German products, as signs of success.

Imported SUVs were in biggest demand. They were up 69% from 2009.

Chinese appetite for foreign vehicles seems to be insatiable, with industry statistics showing March imports setting a new record high of 97,900 vehicles, the Beijing News reported earlier this week. The new figure represents growth of 14.68 percent from last year and is 70.97 percent higher than February’s figures. The total value of imports is estimated around $3.85 billion, growing 19.43 percent from last year.

SUVs still constitute half of all imports, with German and Japanese manufacturers having the most desirable models on average, reports say. Su Hui, head of the China Automobile Dealers Association’s market committee, estimates average price per imported vehicle at 400,000 yuan ($61,648). Total value of imports so far this year totals $17.03 billion, compared to $13.93 billion for exports.