Top BofA auto analyst says Detroit automakers need to exit China as soon as possible

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Employees on the assembly line produce cars in Mazda’s “Family” line of vehicles at China First Automobile Works (FAW) Group Haima Automobile Co., Ltd. April 6, 2005 in Haikou, Hainan Province, China.
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DETROIT – The traditional Detroit automakers – General Motors, Ford Motor and Stellantis – should exit the Chinese market “as soon as they possibly can,” Bank of America’s top automotive analyst said Tuesday.

The warning from BofA Securities research analyst John Murphy comes amid unprecedented competition in China – the world’s largest auto market – and as the country significantly increases vehicle production for Chinese consumers as well as for global exports.

Murphy, who has previously asked General Motors about exiting the market, said the “D3” automakers need to focus on their core products and more profitable regions.

“I think you have to see the D3 exit China as soon as they possibly can,” he said Tuesday during an Automotive Press Association event to discuss BofA’s annual “Car Wars” report in suburban Detroit. He said, “China is no longer core to GM, Ford or Stellantis.”

It’s a prospect that would have been unthinkable for the automakers, specifically GM, just a few years ago, but the rise of local Chinese automakers such as BYD and Geely has put growing pressure on the companies.

GM’s market share in China, including its joint ventures, has plummeted from roughly 15% as recently as 2015 to 8.6% last year — the first time it has dropped below 9% since 2003. GM’s earnings from the operations have also fallen, down 78.5% since peaking in 2014, according to regulatory filings.

GM executives have said they believe they can turn around the operations and regain market share in China, largely with the help of new electric vehicles.

There’s also geopolitical risks and uncertainty for U.S. companies operating in China. President Joe Biden announced last month his administration would quadruple tariffs on China-made electric vehicles.

While the Detroit automakers need to rethink the way their doing business in China, Murphy said it’s slightly different for U.S. electric vehicle leader Tesla.

Murphy said Tesla, like Chinese companies, has a roughly $17,000 cost advantage in EV components compared to the traditional Detroit automakers to assist it in the Chinese market, allowing it to have “more room to run.”

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