GM to launch 17 models in China this year

General Motors will launch 17 new or updated models in China this year as it seeks to maintain dominance in the world's largest car market, the US auto giant's China boss said Friday.

GM's vehicle sales in China rose an annual 11.3 percent last year to a record 2.84 million, according to the company.

"This year we're going to roll out 17 new or refreshed models in China," GM China president Bob Socia told a news briefing ahead of the weekend opening of the Shanghai auto show.

GM has already launched a Cadillac luxury sedan, the XTS, in China this year as it seeks to make inroads into the luxury market.

Other models to be launched this year include updates of the Buick LaCrosse and Buick Excelle, as well as three Opel models, Socia said.

China's auto market could reach 30-35 million vehicles in the next decade on the back of steady economic growth and an expanding population, he said.

"The growth in this country has just been unprecedented," Socia said.

China's auto sales reached 19.31 million vehicles in 2012, a 4.3 percent rise from 2011, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

But Socia said despite continued growth, competition was fierce.

"There's lots of competition here and everyone wants a piece of this pie," he said. "As competitive as it is, it's probably the only market in the world that offers the types of opportunities that this market offers."

Analysts say GM is lagging in China's luxury auto segment, which is dominated by German brands. Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Volkswagen hold a combined 80 percent share.

The luxury segment is one of China's fastest growing and most profitable, given rising incomes in the country.

"Lincoln and Cadillac have a lot of catching up to do," said Namrita Chow, Shanghai-based senior analyst for IHS Automotive, referring to the luxury brands of Ford and GM.

"They're coming in rather late and they've got to start from scratch almost," she said.