German premium carmaker Mercedes-Benz's 2007 sales surged by 50 percent to a new record in China, with a booming economy driving up the demand for luxury vehicles.
The Stuttgart-based company told China Daily that it moved 30,630 vehicles last year in China, up almost 50 percent from 2006.
Klaus Maier, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz (China) Ltd, said this made the country its 10th largest market globally. China is expected to be one of the company's top five markets in the next two years, with expansion of its local production, Maier said.
Mercedes-Benz plans to assemble its new C-Class sedans in a joint venture with Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Corp during the first half of this year. The tie-up started making the E-Class sedans in 2006.
However, Mercedes-Benz still trails its two biggest rivals - Audi and BMW - which kicked off production in China earlier.
Audi announced this month that its sales on the mainland grew by a quarter to 100,888 vehicles last year.
BMW has not revealed its 2007 sales in China yet. But the firm's China Chief Christoph Stark said in November that its sales on the mainland would hit 50,000 units in 2007, up from roughly 36,000 units the previous year.
Mercedes-Benz said sales of its imported S-Class sedans in China rose by 40 percent to 11,500 units last year. The robust sales made the country the second biggest market for the S-Class after the United States.
The brand's SUV sales in China rocketed 90 percent to more than 3,000 units last year, it said. The brand now has 89 authorized sales stores across China.
Sales of all China-made vehicles increased by 22 percent to 8.8 million units last year, according to data from China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.
Dong Yang, vice-chairman of the industry body, recently predicted that sales this year would reach 10 million units.
(China Daily January 16, 2008)