Rolls-Royce eyes Thailand, Vietnam

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Ultra-luxury carmaker Rolls-Royce is looking to expand into Thailand and Vietnam, a top executive said Wednesday, after it posted record sales in 2011 with Asia its fastest-growing market.

The German-owned British automaker announced Monday sales jumped 31 percent to 3,538 vehicles last year, up from the 2,711 units in 2010, and was the highest-ever annual total in the company's 107-year history.

The surging sales were driven by demand from China and the US, it said, with 47 percent year-over-year growth in Asia-Pacific, 17 percent in North America and 23 percent in the Middle East.

"(Asia Pacific) is the fastest-growing region. We have seen growth literally in all markets Korea, Japan," Torsten Müller-Ötvös, chief executive officer at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, told AFP on a visit to Hong Kong.

"We are now entering Thailand. We are looking also at Vietnam, Indochina in a broader sense to see what kind of opportunities that we have here," he said, but declined to elaborate citing ongoing discussions.

Müller-Ötvös said the company may add "three, four" dealerships this year in China, which overtook the US to become Rolls-Royce's biggest market in 2011.

The firm's chief executive said he was upbeat on China sales despite concerns about a slowdown in the world's second-largest economy, adding that debt-riddled Europe presented a "very mixed picture".

"I can tell you I am optimistic, we definitely will see another record year for Rolls-Royce to come in 2012," he added.

The company, purchased by BMW in 1998, currently has 14 dealer networks in China, and another dozen in Asia-Pacific including Seoul, Tokyo, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Sydney, Melbourne and New Delhi.

The group unveiled plans in September to expand its Goodwood factory in southern England to meet strong global demand for the group's personalized range of "Ghost" and "Phantom" models.

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