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Sales of high-end cars surge

(Global Times)

08:19, October 10, 2012

High-end car brands are unlikely to maintain their growth momentum in China in the coming years, analysts said Tuesday after latest data showed a jump in the sales of the joint venture (JV) vehicles of some high-end foreign brands.

BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz reported a good sales performance for the January-August period, with 51.7, 36.2 and 26.7 percent year-on-year growth, according to data from gasgoo.com, China's largest automotive B2B marketplace, released on September 25 and reported by Beijing-based Securities Daily Tuesday.

However, Audi saw a slide in the year-on-year sales growth of its JV vehicles in August, with sales of 27,000 units,

Amid an overall slowdown in the market, the reform of the official vehicle purchase rules has hurt the sales of Audi more than other brands, said Li Haiying, an auto analyst with Anbound Consulting.

Audi used to be an important player in official vehicle purchase segment and accounted for some one-third of such purchases, earlier reports said. But China began to encourage purchase of its home-grown brands for official use since 2011, and almost all joint-venture brands were pulled off the government purchase lists.

BMW and Mercedes-Benz, however, posted robust growth in August, with sales rising 55.1 percent and 132.6 percent year-on-year, respectively, according to gasgoo.com.

"Benz's August sales surge was mainly contributed by its C Class, driven by its reasonable price and a good timing of market entry," Jia Xinguang, an independent auto analyst based in Beijing, told the Global Times Tuesday.

Mercedes-Benz C Class entered China at a time when Audi was updating some of its models and BMW's newly released 3 Series had a limited amount of production.

The reality of the auto market is not as rosy as the figures suggest, Li noted, pointing out that the sales figures also include huge inventories at distributors.

LMC Automotive predicted that high-end auto sales in China will reach 1.95 million units in 2015, more than doubling the 970,000 units of 2011, Securities Daily said. However, both Li and Jia are less optimistic about the sales prospects.

But Jia said the market potential of high-end cars is limited and the sales growth won't be more than 30 percent in the coming several years.

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