2010: Banner year for BMW

10:27, January 17, 2011      

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Senior executives of BMW announce an agreement with Shanghai World Expo Co Ltd to be the first automotive brand to join in sustainable development of the Expo Park following conclusion of the event last fall. Photos Provided to China Daily

<center class="t091105">BMW lineup at the Expo's China Pavilion.

German luxury automaker BMW Group reported record sales of nearly 170,000 cars on the Chinese mainland in 2010 and is "confident to do better" this year, said its China regional chief Christoph Stark.

Including its namesake and MINI brand cars, BMW sold 168,998 cars on the mainland last year, an increase of 87 percent over 2009. When figures from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao are included, the total exceeded 180,000 units.

China surpassed the UK in the middle of last year to become BMW's third-largest market worldwide, according to the company.

Positive outlook

Stark said he has a positive outlook on overall economic development in China "in the short, medium and long term" - noting that if the general economy is sound and stable, the car market is likely to follow.

He added that existing car owners tend to "trade up" and buy a better car, which is also good for BMW as a premium brand.

Yet as always, Stark declined to give detailed predictions for BMW's China sales in 2011.

BMW now runs a factory in Shenyang with local partner Brilliance Auto producing 3 Series and 5 Series sedans, but its current capacity of 75,000 cars a year is not enough to meet surging demand.

Stark said the joint venture will continue to expand capacity at the existing plant this year before its new factory goes online in the beginning of 2012. Combined output is projected to reach 150,000 cars a year.

BMW has also established a retail and service network of more than 200 dealerships in China. The expansion will continue in 2011 along with a new concept that will be applied at the brand's dealerships, said the company.

BMW announced that it will authorize the first-ever "5S" shop in China this year, which means qualified dealers must add the standard of sustainability to conventional functions of sales, spare parts, service and surveys.

A 5S shop has to reach required levels in contributions to local employment, the economy, the environment and community causes, according to the company.

BMW has already implemented similar concepts in dealerships in other markets, though not under the same name, Stark said.

"By introducing this concept (in China), we want to push certain ideas from a leadership position," he said.

The 'right direction'

"We are very sure it's the right direction and we want to give strong impulse and initiative."

Stark noted that the cost of such 5S shops will not necessarily be higher than an ordinary dealer outlet.

The initial investment might be more, but running costs could be lower over the long run, he explained, adding that some BMW's dealer partners are enthusiastic about sustainability and have offered their own plans.

In 2011, BMW will also introduce new models to further tap the Chinese market, including the all-new BMW X3 and the new BMW 6 Series, as well as the MINI Countryman, the company said.

The all-new long-wheelbase BMW 5 Series Li launched in China in August last year will have eight models on sale in 2011.

The roomy sedan tailored to the Chinese market has been well received. More than 5,000 units were sold each month in November and December last year.

In addition, a new-energy 5 Series concept model will appear in public for the first time in 2011, according to the company.

BMW plans to eventually build new-energy vehicles at its China joint venture and has been working with Tongji University on electric car research and development .

Brand marketing is another important component of BMW's 2011 blueprint.

Last year, the company launched a creative brand campaign by expressing its core value of "Joy" using the Chinese equivalent "Yue" to establish a closer connection with local buyers.

With quality products to really stand for the brand and more and more clients to choose BMW cars, Stark said that the brand has never been as strong as it is accepted at the moment in China.

As part of its continuing localization strategy, BMW recently signed an agreement with Shanghai World Expo Co Ltd to be the first automotive brand joining in sustainable development of the Expo Park following conclusion of the event last fall.

Through the cooperation, BMW will better integrate its branding and promote Chinese culture, the company said.

Source: China Daily
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