BMW sales in China are expected to increase by over 30 percent this year mainly due to the robust economic growth in this country, according to Christoph Stark, president and chief executive of BMW Group Region China.
BMW China's sales volume is predicted to reach 120,000 units in 2010, up from about 90,000 units in 2009. In the first six months of 2010, the carmaker had sold over 75,000 BMW and Mini brand cars in China.
During the launch of a new BMW 5-series sedan in China, Stark told reporters that no one had expected the market "to run so fast this year." BMW, in its joint venture with state parent of Brilliance China Automotive, operates a plant in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang, producing BMW 3-series and 5-series sedans.
In 2009, Chinese automakers sold a record 13.6 million vehicles, helping China overtake the US as the world's biggest auto market. China Association of Automobile Manufacturers estimates that China's total car sales will likely increase by 10 percent to 15 million units in 2010. China is presently BMW's third-largest market.
Stark observed that since the global financial crisis two years ago, the gap between China and the US, the company's second-biggest market, has been decreasing.
He explained that the markets in the US and Europe dropped during the financial crisis but China just "kept going." This year, the premium market (in China) "almost explodes."
He concludes that it is these very different trends that resulted to the "very fast rising" of China in the ranking. He said that by the end of 2010, the sales volume gap between China and the US is estimated to stand at between 100,000 and 150,000 cars.
When asked to comment on the labor disputes in China, Stark said that he was not surprised. He considers it a "part of a maturing process" for the country. He added that he continues to be happy with the condition of BMW's China operations.
In 2009, BMW sold 90,536 cars in China for a surge of 38 percent. Its other luxury car rivals in China – mainly the Audi and Mercedes-Benz brands -- also experienced strong growth in the country. Last year, Audi sold 158,941 cars in China, for a jump of 32.9 percent while Mercedes delivers 68,500 units, for a hike of 77 percent. This means, that to finally top 100,000-unit mark, BMW should be able to hike its sales in China by more than 10 percent.
BMW is planning to expand capacity at its local joint venture in China to increase production.