BMW is planning a big boost to production and capacity this year at its Chinese joint venture operation in response to surging demand there.

Frank-Peter Arndt, BMW Group board member reponsible for production, told just-auto in Munich that the JV with Brilliance is going very well.

"We sold some 62,000 vehicles in China last year [including Hong Kong and Taiwan] and made some 32,800 vehicles at the plant in Shenyang. It's growing fast and we expect to make around 45,000 cars in China this year."

The 62,000-unit sales total for China in 2007 was 37% ahead of the previous year.

The BMW-Brilliance plant makes BMW's 3 Series and 5 Series models and last year's 32,800-unit output total included 21,200 units of an extended version of the 5 Series that is only manufactured at Shenyang and is intended solely for the Chinese market.

Arndt also revealed that China is BMW's second largest national market, after the US, for the flagship 7 Series.

As part of its sales push BMW will expand its dealerships from last year's 90 to 120 outlets by the end of the year. It plans to import its BMW 1 Series in April to broaden its product mix.

As production increases, BMW is also planning to grow its purchase of parts in China.

The company  plans to buy 4.4 billion yuan worth of parts from 150 domestic suppliers this year, compared with 3.6 billion yuan last year, Alfred Rupp, president and chief executive officer of BMW Brilliance Automotive Ltd has said.

Dave Leggett