China premium car market to grow 50 percent over next decade: Audi CEO

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SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China's premium car market will grow by half over the next decade, the chief executive of high-end automaker Audi AG NSUG.DE said on Wednesday, citing growing personal wealth and the emergence of flourishing private enterprises as key drivers.

Audi’s CEO Rupert Stadler said the market would grow to around three million cars per year in a decade’s time, driven by broader growth in the world’s second-largest economy, rising wealth and the “entrepreneurial development” of private firms.

“We will expect significant growth,” he said at the Shanghai auto show. “It doesn’t matter if it comes in two years or three years. But at least from a 10-year perspective we see growth.”

Audi, the luxury division of Volkswagen AG VOWG_p.DE, was an early entrant to China and remains the best-selling premium car brand in the market, although it is rapidly losing ground to newer models from Daimler AG's DAIGn.DE Mercedes-Benz.

Hubertus Troska, head of China operations for Mercedes-Benz, said separately at the Shanghai show he expects China’s premium market will reach the 3 million mark within five years.

German brands currently account for about 70 percent of luxury vehicle sales in China, but that share could decline as more brands enter the luxury car and sport utility vehicle (SUV) segments.

Audi said in January it would sell more electric cars in China and deepen ties with local partner China FAW Group Corp [SASACJ.UL] to counter rivals Mercedes-Benz and BMW BMWG.DE.

Reporting by Norihiko Shirouzu and Joseph White; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Christopher Cushing