U.S. may overtake China's rich in Rolls Royce race

Wed Jan 11, 2012 4:28am EST
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By Farah Master and Jonathan Gordon

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Luxury carmaker Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Ltd, owned by German automotive giant BMW AG (BMWG.DE: Quote), said its U.S. sales could overtake China this year, revving up the British company for record global revenue in 2012, its chief executive said.

The 107-year old brand, known for its Phantom and Ghost models, remains focused on China after selling more than 1,000 cars there last year, helping the mainland cruise past the U.S. for the first time in the brand's history.

Yet Torsten Müller-tvs, a BMW veteran, expressed confidence in a resurgence of growth in North America, saying he would not be surprised if sales in the U.S. accelerated ahead of China in 2012.

"I think the American market will definitely pick up. It depends on the economy and the U.S. market. There are encouraging signals we are seeing," he told Reuters from the flagship Rolls-Royce store in Hong Kong.

Rolls-Royce, based in Goodwood, southern England, earlier this week reported record sales of 3,538 cars for 2011, up 31 percent from the previous year.

While mass market autos are facing slowing demand, luxury car makers are forecasting speeding sales growth.

Like Rolls-Royce, premium brands such as Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) -owned Bentley, Porsche (PSHG_p.DE: Quote) and Aston Martin have posted stellar sales on rising affluence in regions such as Asia-Pacific, in which a wave of emerging nouveau riche are eager to flaunt their wealth.

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