Aston Martin eyes 25 pct of global sales from Asia -exec

Newswire

By Fang Yan and Ken Wills

BEIJING, Nov 29 (Reuters) - A quarter of global sales for British luxury car maker Aston Martin could come from the Asia Pacific region within two years, nearly double the current share, thanks to robust demand in China, a senior executive said on Tuesday.

China, which Aston Marton officially entered three years ago, has already become its largest and fastest growing market in Asia Pacific, the company's director for the region, Matthew Bennett, told reporters in Beijing.

In 2010, it delivered 110 cars in the country. The year-to-date tally is double and could hit 500 units in 2012, Bennett said.

"China is not only the biggest but the fastest growing by a long, long way (in the region). In 18 months we will see China and Asia Pacific as a whole really on a par with the other big three markets."

Asia Pacific now contributes 12-15 percent of Aston Martin's global sales, according to Bennett.

Top global marques, from Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz to Rolls-Royces, have racked up stellar sales in China where growing ranks of rich consumers are fueling sales of luxury items from Gucci handbags to Rolex watches.

To help win over more customers in China, Aston Martin is introducing the V12 Zagato, which premiered at the Frankfurt auto show, with a price tag of roughly 9 million yuan ($1.41 million), including import tariffs of more than 100 percent.

Many of its popular models, such as Rapide and V8 Vantage Roadster, are already available here.

Aston Martin chief executive Ulrich Bez told Reuters in September that he wanted a diversified geographical reach, with a fifth of the sales in China, a fifth in the UK, a fifth in the rest of Europe and a fifth in North America.

Currently, Aston Martin has five outlets in China covering major cities and the surrounding areas. At least seven more will be added, bringing the total number to 12 outlets by the end of 2012, he said.

NO FEAR OF SLOWDOWN

In a recent East Asia and Pacific economic update, the World Bank said it expects regional growth to moderate from next year as overseas economies slow and Beijing steers the economy to rely less on investment and manufacturing.

Fears that China may be set for a sharp slowdown flared again last week after HSBC's flash PMI survey showed the factory sector shrank the most in 32 months in November on signs of domestic economic weakness.

Bennett said he was aware of the situation but remained optimistic about the potential of the world's largest auto market.

"We are still relatively new in China. We still see a very significant growth opportunity for us here," he said.

Other global luxury car makers, such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW have also announced investment and expansion schemes in China.

Ford Motor Co sold Aston Martin for 479 million pounds ($756 million) in March 2007 to a consortium led by David Richards -- former Formula 1 Benetton and BAR racing boss -- as well as two Kuwaiti funds. ($1 = 6.3841 Chinese yuan) (Reporting by Fang Yan and Ken Wills)

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