Audi to double China production in market share battle with BMW, Mercedes
Audi AG may more than double production in China over the next four years to meet rising demand for luxury cars, its China chief said.
The company plans to expand annual manufacturing capacity in China to as many as 700,000 units by 2015 depending on market demand, up from 300,000 units now, said Audi China President Dietmar Voggenreiter.
Volkswagen AG's luxury brand is considering a proposal to build a second plant in addition to the one in Changchun, Voggenreiter said, declining to specify the investment amount or the plant's location.
"You see a lot of young customers and young families now buying premium cars," Voggenreiter said in an interview in Changchun in northeast China. "Nowadays, the upper middle-management customers are growing and this is our main customer focus."
The automaker is counting on China, its largest market, to help it overtake BMW AG in global sales by 2015. Audi accounts for one-third of the luxury-car market in China, outselling BMW and Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz, according to J.D. Power & Associates.
Audi, BMW and Mercedes are targeting record sales this year, helped by China. The world's second-largest economy will grow 9.5 percent this year, six times the pace of the U.S. and euro area, according to International Monetary Fund estimates released in September.
The automaker may produce an electric car in China, said Voggenreiter, who's headed Audi in China since 2006. Audi makes the A4L, A6L sedans and Q5 sport-utility vehicles with its partner, China FAW Group Corp.
Audi said last month that it expects China deliveries in 2011 to exceed 300,000 units for the first time. In the first nine months of the year, Audi's China sales rose 29 percent to 223,631 units.
Voggenreiter declined to comment on 2012 sales, saying only that he was "optimistic" about the market. Audi will introduce its full range of products in China to boost import sales, he said.
Audi was the first luxury automaker in the country when it entered the market 23 years ago. Its share of the high-end market has fallen to 30 percent in the first half of 2011 from 40 percent in 2009 as BMW and Mercedes boosted production and introduced new models, according to J.D. Power.
BMW's market share has risen to 25 percent from 21 percent in 2009, while Mercedes has 22 percent, up from 16 percent, data from J.D. Power show. Audi's sales will rise 24 percent in 2011, trailing BMW's 60 percent growth and Mercedes's 42 percent, according to the researcher.
Audi sales were affected by a temporary stoppage at its Changchun factory in the first quarter after the automaker upgraded its facilities to boost capacity, Voggenreiter said. "We are back on track now," he said. "We had to have a pit stop. After the pit stop, with new tires, we will make new time records."