Thursday, 21 July 2011

BMW sales chief upbeat on China car sales growth

BMW AG is banking on continued demand for luxury cars in China to boost its second-half sales, albeit to a lesser degree than in the first half, the carmaker's sales chief Ian Robertson said.

"In the second half of the year we will not have such a fast growth rate (in China) as in the first half because of the high year-earlier level of comparison, but will still have growth," Robertson said.

He said vehicle sales in China would likely expand by a low double-digit percentage. In the first six months of 2011, BMW's vehicle sales in China rose 61 percent.

Earlier this month, the luxury carmaker raised its profit target for the year due to booming sales in China as German auto companies prove quicker at tapping into growth in emerging markets than rivals.

Rising lifestyles in the world's most populated countries like China, India and Russia are opening up new markets for premium and luxury brands.

Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes-Benz have said their vehicle sales for the first half had never been higher and that they were increasing at double-digit rates.

BMW is the second-biggest luxury car company in China after Volkswagen unit Audi.

"We sell bigger cars than Audi, so it is not a primary target to push them out of pole position," Robertson said, adding that BMW was banking on growth across regions to avoid becoming too dependent on individual markets such as China.

China's car market, the world's biggest, is expected to cool this year amid rising fuel prices and tighter rules on registration in some cities after surging by a third in 2010.

China accounted for 15 percent of BMW's car sales in the first quarter, up from about 12 percent a year ago, and is hot on the heels of the United States and Germany, BMW's two biggest markets.

The U.S. car market has shrunk from highs of more than 17 million vehicles sold every year to about 13 million, and Robertson said he did not expect that to change soon.

"As long as there's a high level of unemployment and problems on the housing market have not been solved, these record levels will remain out of reach," he said, adding that he still expected to see only slight growth on the U.S. market.

In Germany, he expects demand that pushed up first-half vehicle sales by 10.6 percent to continue.

"We grew strongly in Germany in the first half of the year and expect that this will continue for the coming months," Robertson told Reuters at a press event on Monday.

BMW is due to release second-quarter financial results on Aug. 1.


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