BMW China venture's vehicle sales to rise 20 pct in 2017

Raffaele Huang

(Adds Brilliance comments, context)

HONG KONG, March 24 (Reuters) - Sales for German automaker

BMW AG's China venture are expected to rise at least

20 percent year-on-year in 2017, the premium automaker's local

joint venture partner said on Friday.

The full-year estimate is based on a 44 percent year-on-year

rise in the first two months of 2017, Chairman Wu Xiaoan of

Brilliance China Automotive Holdings, BMW's 50-50

joint venture partner, told reporters in Hong Kong.

Global automakers must form local JVs in order to

manufacture cars in China.

In 2017, premium vehicle sales are predicted to outperform

China's overall auto market, which is expected to slow as a tax

cut on small-engined cars is rolled back and the economy

continues to slow.

China's auto market, the world's largest, is entering a

"tiny growth era", Brilliance Chief Executive Qi Yumin said at

the briefing. He estimated the overall market would grow more

than 5 percent.

BMW, whose China sales grew 11.3 percent last year, is the

country's second-largest premium brand after Volkswagen AG's

Audi AG and is racing to stay ahead of third-place

Daimler's Mercedes-Benz, which recorded 26.6 percent

growth in 2016 China sales thanks to a fresher model lineup.

(Reporting by Raffaele Huang; Writing by Jake Spring; Editing

by Susan Thomas)