Porsche started to sell its new Cayenne sport utility range at the weekend in China, hoping sales would jump by another 170% this year despite a vehicle excise tax that promotes environmental protection.

According to Shanghai Daily, the German luxury sports car maker officially unveiled the second generation of the Cayenne SUV with more powerful engines and improved fuel efficiency.

Porsche entered the SUV market in China with the Cayenne in 2002. The model accounted for more than 80%, or 1,900 vehicles, of Porsche’s total sales there last year, the report said.

“The Cayenne is the most important hallmark for the Porsche brand in China,” Tommy Zhao, general manager of Porsche Centre Shanghai, told the paper. “Chinese customers began to be more familiar with Porsche after they knew the Cayenne.”

Fueled by the SUV, Porsche’s sales surged almost 170% last year to 2,305 units, compared with 857 units in 2005. The car maker is confident of achieving the same sales growth this year with the new Cayenne SUV series banking on the huge potential in China, the world’s second largest economy, the report said.

Last year, China’s introduction of a vehicle excise tax which encourages the use of small-engine cars for environment protection caused a sales slump in the SUV market and forced smaller-sized SUV makers to quit amid soaring oil prices on the global market. However, the bigger imported luxury sports car makers were less hit, Shanghai Daily noted.