Mercedes-Benz: 2009 Was “Best Year Ever” In China

Mercedes Sales Soared 77% In 2009, With Sales Of China-Made C-Class Rising 156.3 Percent Over 2008

The locally manufactured Mercedes-Benz C Class is extremely popular in mainland China, with over 15,000 sold last year alone

The locally manufactured Mercedes-Benz C Class is extremely popular in mainland China, with over 15,000 units sold last year alone

For the beleaguered global auto industry, China’s exploding car sales in 2009 were a welcome bit of good news in an otherwise harsh year. According to figures released this week by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, China’s auto sales rose 52.9 percent in 2009 to 13.6 million units, making China the world’s largest auto market. Spurred by tax incentives and the country’s economic stimulus, many first-time car buyers leapt into the marketplace, benefiting both domestic and imported automakers, but luxury brands were, arguably, the biggest winners in the Chinese marketplace in 2009.

Today, Xinhua notes that Mercedes-Benz sales jumped 77% in 2009, led by the popular domestically produced C-Class, which sold over 15,000 units in 2009, a more than 150% rise over 2008 sales.

From the article:

Sales of Mercedes-Benz passenger vehicles in China set a new monthly record of 9,350 units in December.

“China became the fourth-largest market for Mercedes-Benz in the world,” said Klaus Maier, president of Mercedes-Benz China.

Despite the far-reaching international economic crisis, Mercedes-Benz sold nearly 15,000 S-Class cars in China last year, making the country the largest market for the luxury flagship model, while the sales of SUV series added up to 15,800 units, said the company.

The company also said 2009 was the best year for Mercedes-Benz since it came into the Chinese market more than 20 years ago.

These figures give observers reason to be optimistic about the Chinese auto industry, but the question remains: will this good news continue, even after stimulus measures and tax breaks are scaled back? According to a Forbes article today by Hana Alberts, car makers should expect to see continued growth in 2010, with foreign brands maintaining their dominance:

Car ownership in China has more than doubled in the last five years, from 12% of households in 2004 to 28% in 2009, the report says. Based on a 40% increase in car ownership in Japan between 1970 and 1980, the report concludes that it’s possible for China’s percentage to top 50% by around 2015.

To be sure, last year an incentive program akin to the U.S.’ Cash for Clunkers initiative helped boost sales in China. But research shows the stimulus package wasn’t the only factor fueling demand. In the sixth-annual iteration of its consumer survey, Credit Suisse polled 2,700 people in eight major cities about their incomes and spending habits.

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