NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- China has become the top sales market for General Motors, the iconic American automaker owned by U.S. taxpayers.
Through the first six months of the year GM and its Chinese joint venture partners have sold 1.21 million vehicles in China, the company announced Friday. Its U.S. sales, announced Thursday, came in at 1.08 million.
GM's Chinese auto sales are growing at a blistering pace, up 48.5% over the first half of the year. GM's U.S. sales are also showing improvement -- enough to keep its U.S. plants operating during what would normally be a summer shutdown. But the growth is a far more modest 15% in the first half of the year.
Don Johnson, GM's new vice president of U.S. sales operations, said that given the growth rate in China, it's a pretty good bet it will stay ahead of GM's U.S. sales for the remainder of the year. But he's not overly concerned with losing the title.
"There are some market dynamics beyond one's control," he said. "Personally I think that's a good thing that China's growth is helping GM. Our China operation will always play an important role in our company, but fundamentally we're a U.S. company and will always be a U.S. company."
Last year was the first year that overall auto sales in China surpassed the United States' market. But while GM has the largest share in both markets, its share in the the far more splintered Chinese market is only 13%, compared to its 19% share in the United States.
GM has long been making money in China, despite a lower sales price for the smaller vehicles it sells there. The profits from China have been reinvested to grow its capacity and operations there.
Years of ongoing losses in its home market, and a sharp plunge in sales here starting in 2008, caused the company to file for bankruptcy a year ago. During its reorganization it shed plants, workers, dealerships and much of its debt owed to bondholders. It emerged with the help of a $50 billion bailout from U.S. taxpayers.
Its ability to pay back that bailout will depend upon its planned sale of stock to the public later this year or early next year.
Coke debuted limited edition "proud to be an American" cans in collaboration with the USO. More
The FBI has opened a national security investigation into the hacking of Bangladesh's central bank amid signs that the hack might have come from North Korea. More
In 1998, Ntsiki Biyela won a scholarship to study wine making. Now she's about to launch her own brand. More
The gender pay gap in the labor market is pretty well documented. But the gender gap also exists in the housing market. More