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BMW Sales in Asia Rise to Record

BMW AG, the world's second-largest luxury carmaker, said its sales in Asia rose 2.6 percent to a record in 2004, helped by an increase in sales in all markets except China.



BMW sold 95,482 cars in the region last year, the Munich-based automaker said in a statement yesterday in Singapore. Sales in Japan, its biggest Asian market, increased 6.5 percent to 51,838 vehicles. In China, sales fell 10 percent to 24,321 units. It expects Asian sales to rise 10 percent to 15 percent this year.


BMW Chairman Helmut Panke is aiming to sell 150,000 cars annually in Asia by 2008, which will then make up about 11 percent of the carmaker's estimated 1.4 million worldwide in 2008. The company is counting on more people choosing luxury vehicles over mass-market models in the next few years to maintain growth.


"Here in Asia, we consider a double-digit increase in retail to be realistic on the basis of current figures," Panke said in a news conference in Singapore on the outlook for Asian sales this year. "This year's new products and the models introduced in 2004 are providing us with both a wider and a more up-to-date product portfolio than ever before."


Panke reiterated the automaker achieved record earnings in 2004 but declined to give details. BMW last month said its global revenue in 2004 rose 6.8 percent to a record after the company introduced new models and won market share from DaimlerChrysler AG's Mercedes-Benz unit in the United States and Germany.


Asian sales in 2003 made up 8.5 percent of BMW's total unit sales of 1.1 million vehicles.


BMW said the slump in sales in China, the world's third-largest auto market, is "short term" and it expects sales to rise this year after price cuts of as much as 14 percent for locally-produced cars and an increase in the number of dealers.


China's car sales slowed last year as the government clamped down on bank loans to slow the economy and price cuts prompted consumers to wait for further discounts before buying. Auto sales in China rose 15 percent last year after 76 percent growth in 2003 and a 50 percent increase in 2002.


BMW started making cars in China with Brilliance China Automotive Holdings Ltd in November 2003.


Panke said BMW will continue to expand its presence in Asia by tapping new markets and introducing new models.


In the Republic of Korea, where sales rose 3 percent to 5,806 units, BMW will launch its Mini brand at the end of this month, Panke said.


"Here in Korea, customers are very familiar with BMW, and so if the company can penetrate into this market, it has great potential," said Kim Hagju, an auto analyst at Samsung Securities Co.


Panke said BMW is studying options in India after selling 122 cars last year through independent dealers. BMW is also looking to enter smaller markets such as Cambodia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Fiji Islands.


"There is no market where we are not looking," said Panke. "It's important not to depend on just one market."


BMW will also introduce the new 3-Series sedan in March and will start producing it in Asia through its Thailand plant in June. The carmaker will also be offering its new M5 and M6 models this year in Asia.


(China Daily February 17, 2005)


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