April 25, 2018 / 5:40 AM / a year ago

BMW sees slower growth in China this year; local JV talks ongoing

A BMW iX3 electric concept car is displayed during a media preview at the Auto China 2018 motor show in Beijing, China April 25, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee

BEIJING (Reuters) - German luxury carmaker BMW (BMWG.DE) expects the pace of growth of its China sales to almost halve this year, the firm’s chief executive said on Wednesday, amid a broader slowdown in the world’s largest auto market.

The firm is targeting growth of 7-8 percent, versus 15 percent in 2017, BMW CEO Harald Krueger told reporters at China’s main annual auto show being held in Beijing.

“We don’t expect huge double-digit growth like in the past, we expect single digit growth,” he said.

China’s overall auto market grew just 2.8 percent in the first quarter of the year. The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers has predicted a 3 percent market growth this year, in line with 2017, but significantly below the steep 13.7 percent gain in 2016.

BMW, which has a local venture with Brilliance China Automotive Holdings (1114.HK), is also planning a new alliance with Chinese carmaker Great Wall Motor Co (601633.SS) to develop the carmaker’s Mini brand in China.

Krueger said Chinese plans to remove caps on foreign ownership of local ventures, currently limited to 50 percent, should not impact its tie-ups in the country, but said that discussions with its partners in the market were ongoing.

China said earlier this month it would scrap a long-standing limit on foreign ownership of new-energy vehicle ventures this year and for the wider car market by 2022, in a major policy shift that will help open up the market.

Krueger also said the firm could, in the long-term, export vehicles from China to other markets in the region, though this would depend on factors including logistics costs and tariffs between China and other countries like Thailand.

“We will think those scenarios through,” he said.

Reporting by Ilona Wissenbach; Writing by Brenda Goh and Adam Jourdan; Editing by Himani Sarkar

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