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Old 04-21-2005, 07:55   #1 (permalink)
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China:Ford's luxury brands boost Q1 China sales 34%

Ford's luxury brands boost Q1 China sales 34%

Reuters

SHANGHAI -- Ford Motor Co's European luxury car brands boosted first-quarter unit sales in China by about a third and the division expects double-digit percentage expansion to continue, albeit at a slower pace, a senior executive said on Thursday.

"Through the first quarter for all PAG brands we're up about 34 percent in China, so we're bucking the trend and across all brands," Mark Fields, executive vice president of the Premier Automotive Group (PAG), told Reuters at the Shanghai car show.

"I think we have had some pretty heady growth in the first quarter. I would like to sustain double-digit (percentage growth), clearly I don't think we can sustain 30-40 percent."

The luxury division includes Volvo, Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin. Last year, it sold just over 4,000 cars in China.

Fields said in an interview he thought the overall Chinese auto market would be "flat at best" this year as gradual improvement sets in after a weak start. But he added growth should pick up again as time goes on.

"Even though we are seeing a lull this year, I believe it is more of an anomaly than a trend," he said.

Customers were responding to PAG's new products, new technology and an expanded dealer network in China, which meant it did not have to resort to the price cuts that some rival manufacturers have adopted to promote sales, he said.

"Right now is the best of all worlds for us because we are not discounting but at the same time our sales are growing," Fields said.

PAG had a global pretax loss of $55 million in the first quarter as adverse foreign exchange rates more than offset lower costs. Worldwide sales rose to $7.6 billion.
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