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BMW Planning New Models for China; Announces Start of Leasing Program

BMW's plan to become the number one automaker in China will include new models for the world's most populous country, as well as a leasing program to make the luxury cars more affordable to a growing middle class.

"We have a clear target: We want to become the strongest premium brand in China,” said CFO Friedrich Eichiner at a conference in Beijing.

To do this, BMW will introduce China-specific models, like the 5 Series LWD (long wheel base), that stretches the luxury sedan an additional 5.5-inches for limo-like back-seat room. Recently BMW also announced a limited edition Tiger Edition version of its M3. No details of new China-specific models were provided.

BMW will work at expanding its small car base in China, however, with plans to begin building the 3 Series there in 2012, while the MegaCity electric car will go on sale here in 2014 – a year after launch.

And with an influx of 3 Series models in the Chinese market, BMW is thinking ahead, announcing that it will begin a leasing program after setting up a new financing arm tied to Chinese partner BMW Brilliance Automotive Holdings Ltd. (Because no one actually owns a 3 Series).

BMW sees huge growth potential in the Chinese marketplace and plans to increase its dealership network from 165 to 200 as forecasts show luxury cars in China could grow by 20 percent to hit 530,0000 units in this year and then double to 1.1 million by 2015.

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