April 1, 2014 / 3:25 PM / 3 years ago

UPDATE 1-Volvo aims to sell over 1 million cars a year after 2020

(Adds Volvo March, Q1 sales)

STOCKHOLM, April 1 (Reuters) - Volvo Car Group targets annual sales of over one million vehicles in the long term, its chairman said as the company posted its ninth straight month of growth thanks to strong demand in China and a recovery in the United States.

Volvo, bought by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. from Ford Motor Co. in 2010, aims for annual sales of 800,000 cars by 2020, almost double the level last year, helped primarily by growth in China.

“The long-term target beyond 2020 is above a million cars,” Chairman Li Shufu told Swedish business daily Dagens Industri.

The company, one of Sweden’s biggest by sales and number of employees, said separately that it sold 47,850 cars globally in March - up 17.9 percent on the same month a year ago.

That put sales for the first quarter at 108,170 cars - up 9.5 percent compared with the same period in 2013.

China has become a key region for Volvo as it seeks to take on larger global luxury brands such as BMW, Daimler’s Mercedes and Volkswagen’s Audi.

It was Volvo’s largest market last month, and sales in the country were up more than 25 percent in the first quarter.

A U.S. recovery also helped lift sales in March while there was strong growth in several European markets - Britain, Germany, Italy, France and the Netherlands.

The firm’s sales in China shot up nearly 50 percent last year, leaving it the group’s top market alongside the United States, and it expects new models and an expansion of its dealer network in the world’s biggest car market to underpin growth.

But while turnover in China has taken off, a lack of new models saw sales in the United States slide 10 percent in 2013 to stand at only roughly half of what they were a decade ago.

Gothenburg-based Volvo reported operating profit of 1.92 billion crowns ($297.5 million)last year, from 66 million in 2012, thanks to stronger sales and cost management.

$1 = 6.4532 Swedish crowns Reporting by Niklas Pollard and Mia Shanley,; Editing by Pravin Char

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