April 11, 2011 / 9:14 AM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 1-Mercedes China car sales to rise over 20 pct this yr -Daimler exec

* Growing ranks of super-rich consumers fuelling strong growth

* Q1 sales by Daimler up 86 percent on year - exec (Adds Q1 China sales, background)

BEIJING, April 11 (Reuters) - Sales of Mercedes Benz cars in China will likely rise more than 20 percent year on year in 2011, outpacing the overall market, a senior Daimler AG (DAIGn.DE) executive said on Monday.

Global luxury car makers, from Audi AG to BMW AG have racked up eye-popping sales in China, where a growing army of super-rich is fuelling demand for everything from Gucci handbags to Rolls-Royce cars.

In the first three months, Daimler AG (DAIGn.DE) sold 43,990 Mercedes-Benz cars in China, up 86 percent from a year earlier, Ulrich Walker, chairman and chief executive for Daimler Northeast Asia, told reporters in Beijing.

That significantly outpaced a 9.1 percent gain for the country’s overall passenger car market, which has lost some steam after the government stripped policy incentives for small and cheaper vehicles at the end of 2010.

Walker did not say how the country’s premier car segment would grow this year but said he expected Mercedes-Benz to beat the market.

The more than 20 percent growth estimate for Mercedes-Benz was a “conservative” target, he added.

In 2010, 147,670 Mercedes-Benz cars were sold in China, up 115 percent. Volkswagen AG’s Audi sold 227,928 units while BMW sold 168,998 units. [ID:nTOE70B06A]

Daimler Chairman Dieter Zetsche said in October 2010 that he aimed to sell 300,000 Mercedes-Benz cars in China annually by 2015.

The German automaker said it would invest 3 billion euros ($4.3 billion) in China over the next five years to expand its capacity and dealer network, including a new engine plant for Mercedes-Benz.

Daimler makes Mercedes-Benz E-Class and C-Class cars in a tie-up with Beijing Automotive Industry Holdings Co and may add Mercedes-Benz A-Class and B-Class models to the portfolio. It has also agreed to set up a truck venture with Beiqi Foton Motor Co Ltd .

It plans to launch an electric car that carries a non-Mercedes-Benz badge in China in 2013, in conjunction with BYD Co Ltd , but did not provide further details.

Other automakers revving up for a head-start in China’s fledgling green car market include General Motors Co , which is set to roll out its Chey Volt in the country later this year. ($1 = 0.703 Euros) (Reporting by Fang Yan and Ken Wills; Editing by Chris Lewis)

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