The premier car market in China used to grow 30 percent year on year but could not be shielded from the global financial crisis as even well-heeled consumers began belt-tightening. The weaker demand was also because of higher taxes on large-engine vehicles which meant a price surge for imported luxury vehicles.
Most analysts forecast the downturn will continue for the first half of this year.
"We still expect growth for the Chinese market this year, and we are sure the government stimulus package will have a positive impact especially in the second quarter," said Klaus Maier, president and chief executive officer of Mercedes-Benz (China) Ltd. "The increase in the premier car segment will be double-digit, compared to the 6 to 10-percent growth for the overall passenger car market."
Lexus achieved international sales of 435,000 units last year, a sharp decline from a year earlier. But sales in China bucked the trend with a 30-percent jump, helping the country pass Japan to be the second-biggest market for Lexus for the first time, after the United States, Tsang said. He estimated the overall luxury car market in China would grow 3 to 5 percent this year.
Lexus added the Lexus GS450h sedan to its portfolio in China yesterday to match the trend to fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly models. It is the third hybrid sedan brought to China after the RX400h and LS600hL. The B-class compact multi-purpose vehicle from Mercedes-Benz is expected to help that car maker extend to the lower luxury car segment.