Mercedes, GM Sales in China Jumped in March

SHANGHAI -- Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz and General Motors Corp. said their sales in China rose to a monthly record in March, despite a global slowdown in auto demand.

March was Mercedes-Benz's "best ever" month in China, with sales rising 50% from the same period in 2008, said Klaus Maier, Mercedes-Benz (China) Ltd.'s president and chief executive.

"I think it shows confidence in China is back," Mr. Maier said at a briefing Wednesday on the launch of Daimler's Smart minicar in China.

In China and Hong Kong, 11,800 Mercedes-Benz vehicles were sold, which was up 23% from the 9,626 units sold in March last year.

Mercedes-Benz sold 98,500 cars world-wide in March, down 18% from a year earlier. In the quarter, sales dropped 25% from the first quarter of 2008, to 216,000 cars.

Separately, GM said its China sales in March rose 25% from a year earlier to a record 137,004 vehicles. GM's brisk sales in China also run counter to the global trend.

March sales at GM's commercial vehicle joint venture, SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile Co., rose 38% from a year earlier to 90,784 units, a monthly record. GM attributed the growth to demand for its Buick lineup, Sunshine and Wuling Rongguang minivans, and Spark mini-car.

Mercedes-Benz's Mr. Maier said he expects China's car market to grow 6% this year, and the luxury auto segment to grow in the double-digits. He said Mercedes aims to grow faster than the market, but didn't provide details.

Of the 421 Mercedes dealerships in China, 17 will sell the imported Smart minicar in 13 cities. The company has received 1,000 preorders for the Smart, which is priced between 158,000 yuan and 206,000 yuan ($23,133 and $30,161).

Auto sales in China had declined for five out of six months before rebounding 25% in February, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.


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