FRANKFURT (Reuters) -- BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer said the worst of the car sales downturn is over. He predicted that premium car sales would accelerate in 2011 after an uptick next year.
"We are working ourselves higher month by month. In August sales declined by just a single-digit (rate) for the first time (this year). September looks even better," Reithofer told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. "The last few weeks have put us in an optimistic mood."
Unit sales at BMW shrank 9.7 percent in August, bringing the drop in the first eight months to 17.7 percent.
The company's sales chief Ian Robertson said on Sept. 8 that BMW was "cautiously optimistic" about returning to growth in the months ahead even though it would sell fewer cars this year than in 2008.
Reithofer said in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung interview he is certain that sales in the premium car segment would eventually return to levels seen before the financial crisis hit.
Next year should see a gradual recovery. "A stronger rise should come in 2011," he added.
Electric car forecast
BMW is working on an electric car but Reithofer sought to play down expectations for the new segment.
"We will see between 5 and 15 percent (market share for) electric cars in 2020, not more. I think forecasts of 50 percent are greatly exaggerated," he said.
In a separate interview with Germany's Auto Zeitung, Reithofer was quoted as saying BMW's new electric car would make its debut in the first years of the next decade. Its cost would depend on the lithium-ion batteries being provided by a joint venture between Robert Bosch and Samsung SDI.
"A price below 15,000 euros ($21,910) will not be possible," he said.