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Rolls-Royce posts record car sales on China, US demand
by Staff Writers
London (AFP) Jan 9, 2012

German-owned British luxury carmaker Rolls-Royce said Monday that sales soared to a record high in 2011, driven by demand from China and the United States, in the latest upbeat news for the auto sector.

Sales leapt 31 percent to 3,538 cars last year, said a statement from the upmarket division of German parent group BMW.

That compared with 2,711 in the previous year and was the highest-ever total in the 107-year history of the company, beating the previous record of 3,347 cars that was set back in 1978.

Rolls-Royce, which is based at the Goodwood factory in West Sussex, southern England, added that China and the United States were now the "most significant individual markets" for the maker of ultra-luxurious vehicles.

"We had an outstanding year in 2011 and we should take a moment to reflect on this great British success story," said Torsten Muller-Otvos, chief executive officer at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.

"Our business is in excellent shape. We are developing our dealer network, moving into new markets like South America, expanding our manufacturing operation in West Sussex to meet global demand and have plans to develop our product range.

"At the core of this extraordinary success is a dedicated, committed and, above all, passionate workforce."

The company, purchased by BMW in 1998, said sales surged last year by 47 percent across the Asia Pacific region, by 17 percent in North America and by 23 percent in the Middle East.

The group unveiled plans in September to expand its Goodwood factory to meet strong global demand for the group's personalised range of 'Ghost' and 'Phantom' models. Expansion work will start in February.

However, Rolls-Royce has failed to catch up with rival luxury carmaker Bentley, which revealed last week that sales surged 37 percent to 7,003 vehicles in 2011 -- and also cited strong demand from China and the US.

Bentley, which is headquartered in Crewe, northwestern England, is owned by German carmaker Volkswagen.

"It has been a tremendously good year for Bentley," Bentley's chairman and chief executive Wolfgang Durheimer said last Tuesday.

"The dramatic sales growth reflects a global strength to the brand and a recognition of the quality, craftsmanship and engineering excellence of our cars," he added.

In more positive news for the British car industry, Japanese auto giant Nissan announced last week that its factory in Sunderland, northeast England, produced more than 480,000 cars last year -- a record for a British factory.

Output at the Sunderland plant surged to 480,485 vehicles last year, Nissan said in a statement, as the group was boosted by strong demand for its Qashqai, Juke and Note car models, many of which are sold outside of Britain.

BGC Partners analyst Howard Wheeldon said that Bentley and Rolls-Royce were performing well because they targeted "niche" luxury markets.

"Niche or low-volume specialist product is still a growth area -- as witnessed by the increase in Rolls-Royce sales to China," Wheeldon told AFP.

He added that the beneficial exchange rate was also boosting British-based carmakers.

"Britain is a great place to operate from because it is in the European Union and yet outside the euro. The exchange rate between euro and sterling has generally been positive," he added.

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Renault plans to build cars in China with Dongfeng
Detroit, Michigan (AFP) Jan 9, 2012 - French automaker Renault plans to begin building vehicles in China with Chinese partner Dongfeng, likely as early as 2014, the head of Renault and Japan's Nissan said Monday.

"It is gonna happen," Carlos Ghosn told reporters at the Detroit auto show, adding that the project start could occur between "2014 and 2016."

"Any project of Renault in China will take place with Dongfeng as a partner," he added.

"Renault sells cars in China but in limited number," said Ghosn, the chief executive of Renault and Nissan, Japan's second-biggest automaker after Toyota.

For Renault to play a bigger role in the world's largest automobile market, it "needs to produce" there, he said.

Renault is one of the few major automakers that is not building vehicles in China. It sells only several thousand vehicles there, mostly 4x4 Koleos and a few Laguna and Megane cars.

Ghosn noted that Nissan, 44.3 percent owned by Renault, is already producing cars there with Dongfeng. "Every single car we're building in China is for the Chinese market," he said.

"We're still very bullish on China," he added.

Last year Nissan unveiled a five-year 5.4 billion euro ($6.9 billion) investment deal with its partner Dongfeng.

The two firms plan to launch 30 new models, including an all-electric vehicle. Nissan estimates it will double its production capacity in China to two million units by late 2015.


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Think small: US firms bid to retake luxury car market
Detroit, Michigan (AFP) Jan 9, 2012
US luxury cars manufacturers like Cadillac and Lincoln, respectively run by GM and Ford, are struggling to win back a share of the expanding luxury car market, largely controlled by Japanese and German automakers. These brands, which once embodied the very essence of luxury cars, saw quality decline in the years before the industry crisis, and drivers abandoned them in their droves. Now ... read more

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