Mercedes-Benz wants its suppliers to follow the company to China, said CEO Eckhard Cordes.

That would help the German premium carmaker to reach the same quality in its new Beijing factory as it achieves in its plants in Europe and North America, Cordes told the Automotive News Europe Congress in Barcelona.

Mercedes plans to build 25,000 units of its C and E class sedans at a new Chinese plant with its partner Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co.

Cordes said China still offered attractive opportunities for western manufacturers despite the recent slowdown in new-car sales there.

"I am convinced automotive manufacturers must be in China. You must be local," said Cordes.

He said it was unlikely that Mercedes cars would be exported to other markets from China in the near future.

"The Mercedes brand will not be at the forefront of exporting. Premium cars will be the last to be exported from China - if ever," said Cordes.

He added: "First, we need to make sure we can produce there at the same quality level that we have in Europe and North America. When that is done, we can ask ourselves whether China is also a suitable country from which to export cars."