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Porsche defies China slowdown thanks to rich millennials

Sales grew 4% in first 10 months despite overall market decline

Porsche's sales growth in the first 10 months of this year was helped by strong demand from young Chinese entrepreneurs.   © AP

HONG KONG -- Porsche, the German maker of luxury sports cars, appears to be defying the overall decline in China's automobile market, as younger buyers are still keen to splash out on luxury wheels.

In the first 10 months of this year, Porsche's sales in Greater China -- including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau and mainland China -- grew 4% from a year ago, while auto sales in general in mainland China fell by 0.1% during the same period.

Porsche's sales growth was helped by strong demand from young Chinese entrepreneurs, who have so far shown little hesitation in buying its cars despite a dimmer economic outlook, the company said. Its newly launched sports car models, including plug-in hybrid vehicles, have also lifted sales in China.

"By the end of October, China continued the strong lead and remained the largest single market with more than 63,000 deliveries," Jens Puttfarcken, president and chief executive of Porsche China, said at an event in Hong Kong on Tuesday. He expects its global sales to reach a record level in 2018, with China being the biggest contributor.

The German CEO's enthusiasm is in a stark contrast to the recent mood shared by most carmakers in China. The world's biggest auto market is on track this year to record its first full-year decline in almost three decades, with Chinese consumers tightening their belts amid a slowing economy and fears of a trade war between the U.S. and China.

The number of new vehicles sold in October fell 11.7% on the year to 2.38 million units, the fourth straight month of contraction, according to data from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

However, the premium segment appears more resilient to the economic slowdown, according to David Xiao, vice president of sales at Porsche China, thanks to the younger Chinese buyers.

In mainland China, Porsche car owners have an average age of 37, compared with 40 to 50 internationally, he said.

Xiao said the younger buyers in China -- mostly entrepreneurs -- had shown "little change" in their buying behavior lately. He believes this is because "elite" customers in China tend to handle economic turbulence better than the average person.

Girl power is also skewing the sales figures. In mainland China about 40% of Porsche's cars were bought by women over the 10-month period, compared with some 20% among global customers, Xiao said.

Despite the strong figures, however, he said the company would be closely watching the state of China's overall economy and its impact on high-end consumers.

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