Volkswagen sales rise 28 per cent in China for 2007, setting record

( dpa ) - Volkswagen AG, Europe's largest automaker, said Thursday that it had a record year in 2007 in China with sales up 28 per cent to 910,491 cars.

The German company intends to hit another record this year in its largest market in the world with 15- to 20-per-cent growth, which would see it surpass the 1 million mark, Winfried Vahland, Volkswagen's chief in China, said in Beijing.

"Our growth will be supported by new models, which will be introduced this year," he said.

The executive added that Volkswagen was able to increase its market share last year from 17 to 18 per cent and also improved its profitability more than expected.

The carmaker's 28-per-cent growth for 2007 was better than the growth experienced by the Chinese car market as a whole, which grew 22 per cent. It also matched Volkswagen's 2006 growth rate.

Only Volkswagen and domestic carmakers saw their market shares rise while Korean, Japanese and US producers experienced a retreat in China's highly competitive car market, the second largest in the world.

"Besides the Chinese makes, VW was one of the winners," Vahland said, adding that sustained growth in sales was more important to his company than increasing its market share alone.

The president and chief executive of Volkswagen Group China also said he expected further consolidation of the Chinese auto industry from today's 40 companies to one or two large producers.

The share of Chinese brands would rise from today's 27 per cent to 30 to 40 per cent in the long term, he predicted.

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