An economist has said China's auto industry is to experience rapid growth in the coming 15 years and the country will become the world's largest automaker by 2020.
"China's per capita GDP has topped 1,000 US dollars, which means a growing number of Chinese citizens will be able to afford private cars and the auto industry will outgrow the country's GDP, " said Dr. Feng Fei, an economist with the Development Research Center of the State Council, the Chinese cabinet.
China's auto output hit 5.07 million units in 2004, ranking fourth among the world's largest automakers following the United States, Japan and Germany.
Dr. Feng said China's auto production is set to hit 6 million units this year, 9.6 to 10 million in 2010 and 14 to 15 million in 2020.
"By then, China will become the world's No. 1 auto consumer and producer, too. Added value yielded by the automaking sector will make up two to 2.3 percent of the country's GDP, up from 1.6 percent in 2004," Dr. Feng said at a recent forum on the outlook of the Chinese economy in Xi'an, capital of northwest China's Shaanxi Province.
He said China still lags behind the developed countries in the auto industry. "In Germany and the United States, for example, the auto industry contributes 8 percent and 3 percent respectively to their GDP."
China's auto sector currently faces three major problems: lack of competition and coordination in the domestic market that weakens the competitiveness of the entire industry, lack of innovation and excess reliance on oil imports, he said.
As a result, Feng said China should develop more economical cars in the coming decades to maximize fuel efficiency amid climbing oil prices.
Experts say in 2010, China's oil output will reach 180 million tons and oil import will hit 140 million tons, making up 44 percent of the country's total oil supply.
By 2020, oil import will soar to 250 or 270 million tons, making up 56 to 60 percent of China's oil supply, while the country's own oil production will be between 180 and 200 million tons.