April 19, 2017 / 7:35 AM / 4 months ago

AUTOSHOW-China premium car market to grow 50 pct over next decade -Audi CEO

* Market to grow to 3 mln cars/year in decade's time -CEO

* Rising personal wealth, entrepreneurs behind growth -CEO

* Audi is China's best-selling premium car brand (Adds CEO comments, background)

By Norihiko Shirouzu and Joseph White

SHANGHAI, April 19 (Reuters) - China's premium car market will grow by half over the next decade, the chief executive of high-end automaker Audi AG said on Wednesday, citing growing personal wealth and the emergence of flourishing private enterprises as key drivers.

Audi's CEO Rupert Stadler said the market would grow to around three million cars per year in a decade's time, driven by broader growth in the world's second-largest economy, rising wealth and the "entrepreneurial development" of private firms.

"We will expect significant growth," he said at the Shanghai auto show. "It doesn't matter if it comes in two years or three years. But at least from a 10-year perspective we see growth."

Audi, the luxury division of Volkswagen AG, was an early entrant to China and remains the best-selling premium car brand in the market, although it is rapidly losing ground to newer models from Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz.

Hubertus Troska, head of China operations for Mercedes-Benz, said separately at the Shanghai show he expects China's premium market will reach the 3 million mark within five years.

German brands currently account for about 70 percent of luxury vehicle sales in China, but that share could decline as more brands enter the luxury car and sport utility vehicle (SUV) segments.

Audi said in January it would sell more electric cars in China and deepen ties with local partner China FAW Group Corp to counter rivals Mercedes-Benz and BMW. (Reporting by Norihiko Shirouzu and Joseph White; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

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