BMW's 5-series sedan is ready to roll off an assembly line in China as the German luxury car maker steps up its presence in the world's fastest-growing major car market, company executives told Reuters on Thursday.

Separately, Dow Jones said the company would "launch" the 5 on Saturday.

Reuters noted that BMW AG is making the cars at its joint venture with Brilliance China Automotive Holdings in China's northeast city of Shenyang. Pricing details have yet to be released, but the China-made 325 model was priced at about 474,000 yuan ($US57,250), considerably less than imported models, the report added.

Powered by six-cylinder engines, the sedans will expand BMW's model range in China, where sales have so far doubled this year to nearly 12,000 units at the end of October, chief executive Helmut Panke told Reuters.

About 900 of those were the locally made 3-series cars that the Shenyang plant began churning out last month, with the remainder being imports of all BMW-branded models, Panke reportedly said.

"We are seeing basically just enormous growth rates," Panke, who is on his third trip to China this year, told Reuters, adding: "There is enormous momentum in the mainland China market."

Reuters noted that BMW and Brilliance agreed in March to invest a combined €450 million ($536 million) in the venture by 2005.

The report said that BMW competes with Volkswagen's Audi brand and General Motors' Buick in the luxury car segment in China while fellow German car maker and rival DaimlerChrysler aims to start making compact and mid-sized Mercedes-Benz cars in 2005.

Panke told Reuters cars produced in China were as good as the ones made in Germany and that the company had rigorous requirements for local parts makers though he did not elaborate.

Reuters said Panke declined to give estimates for imports or locally made cars for the full year or 2004, saying only that BMW would boost production in line with demand and that the company had no plans to export from China.

The venture is capable of cranking out 30,000 cars a year, but Panke declined to say when it would reach that number, Reuters said.

"It (output) will be driven by consumer demand and the level of technology and the competence of the organisation," Panke reportedly said, adding: "We should not start running before we can walk."

Panke also told Reuters that BMW had no plans to make its high-end 7-series sedan in China thoug he added that greater China, including Hong Kong and Taiwan, was the third-biggest market for the spacious luxury cars.

BMW sold fewer than 60,000 7 series cars a year globally, not enough to justify another factory, Panke reportedly said.

Panke told Reuters he and other executives had met officials from the State Council, or cabinet, on Wednesday to discuss matters such as the timing and details of an upcoming car industry policy.

The new policy, which Panke reportedly said could be unveiled within three months, will address issues like whether car makers will have to run separate dealer networks for imported and locally made cars.

According to Reuters, separate distribution could force potential BMW customers to shop for a 3- or 5-series car at one dealership and a 7 series at a separate showroom, but Panke reportedly dismissed such concerns.

"The key point is that consumers in any country in the world will be able to get a BMW built to BMW standards. Two showrooms or one showroom, this is not important," Panke said, according to the news agency's report.

Auto market intelligence
from just-auto

• Auto component fitment forecasts
• OEM & tier 1 profiles & factory finder
• Analysis of 30+ auto technologies & more