China edges out US as BMW's biggest market on 2013 sales

SHANGHAI (REUTERS) - Sales by German luxury carmaker BMW in China rose by 20 per cent last year to overtake the United States as the group's biggest market.

BMW sold a record 390,713 BMW and Mini cars in China last year, up 19.7 per cent from a year earlier, the company said in a statement on Thursday, outpacing the overall market growth of 13.9 per cent. Its 2013 US sales were up by 8.1 per cent to 375,782.

More and more Chinese consumers are buying luxury cars from BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz as they get richer and seek more exclusivity, shrugging off the negative impacts from the anti-extravagance campaign initiated by President Xi Jinping last year.

China's premium car market will grow at an annual rate of 12 per cent through 2020, and overtake the United States as the world's biggest market for luxury cars as early as 2016, according to consultancy McKinsey & Co.

"We achieved our 2013 targets, but it is even more satisfactory that the volume growth was backed by solid substance in every aspect of our work," Mr Karsten Engel, CEO of BMW Group Region China said in the statement.

"This proves our China strategy worked well and it will be adhered to in this year continuously."

Mr Engel told a news conference on Monday the group will introduce more than 10 new models in China, including its electric BMW i3, this year.

BMW will also expand its dealer network and ramp up local production of vehicles through its Chinese joint venture, according to transcripts of Mr Engel's remarks on Monday.

BMW brand car sales grew by 19 per cent to 362,100 units in China last year and Mini cars increased by 23 per cent to 28,613 vehicles.

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