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Mercedes-Benz Expects Jump In China Sales

Daimler said Monday it expects sales of Mercedes-Benz vehicles to rise over 15 percent by volume in China next year, as the country's luxury car market expands.

BEIJING (AP) -- German automaker Daimler AG said Monday it expects sales of its Mercedes-Benz vehicles to rise more than 15 percent by volume in China next year, as the country's luxury car market expands.

"The year 2009 was the most successful year for us, Daimler, in the region," Ulrich Walker, chairman and CEO of Daimler Northeast Asia, told reporters.

Walker expects Mercedes-Benz's sales in China to grow faster in 2010 than the overall market, which it predicts will expand 15 percent to 20 percent thanks to fast growth in inland regions beyond the traditional strongholds along the relatively affluent eastern coastal areas.

"There's such a huge potential in these cities. For us this is a signal for future growth in selling luxury and premium cars," Walker said.

Mercedes-Benz forecasts that it will sell more than 65,000 cars in China this year, its best year ever, Walker said.

Daimler earlier reported it sold 8,500 vehicles in November, a 224 percent increase over the year before.

Daimler tripled capacity in its local factories to produce more than 18,000 cars by the end of the year.

Walker said the vehicles made at its China plants are good enough to export, but the company is still focusing on meeting huge local demand and has no plans yet for overseas sales.

China has overtaken the U.S. as the world's biggest market for automobiles in 2009 thanks to the government stimulus policies, with passenger car sales totaling 9.23 million in the first 11 months of the year, up 50 percent over last year.

The government recently extended to next year tax cuts and subsidies that mainly have supported sales of vehicles in the populous countryside.

Daimler's Mercedes-Benz is the third biggest foreign luxury car seller in China by sales, after BMW and Audi.

Associated Press researcher Bonnie Cao contributed to this report.

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