By Christiaan Hetzner and Danilo Masoni
PARIS, Oct 1 (Reuters) - Europe's luxury carmakers fear nodouble-dip thanks to a fresh supply of wealthy customers inemerging markets who have just earned enough money to buy theirfirst Mercedes-Benz or Ferrari.
A boom in the premium car market this year has rendered theglobal financial meltdown a distant memory, and luxury carexecutives no longer break out in a cold sweat when they hearthe name "Lehman".
Massive economic growth in Asia and in particular in Chinanot only helps drive local demand, but has also triggered achain reaction by spurring export-led rebounds in countries likeGermany.
"We were all surprised how quickly the markets recoveredfrom the crisis. I wouldn't have dared predict back in Januarythat we would sell 1,080,000 vehicles this year -- that wasinconceivable at the time," Audi sales chief PeterSchwarzenbauer told reporters during the Paris Auto Show.
"Today there is no market anywhere where I would say thereis a crisis. Apart from maybe Greece, every region of the worldis otherwise booming," he said, adding that the order backlog inEurope was the biggest in its history.
Rivals BMW and Daimler started the year with extremelyconservative profit targets. Each has revised guidance higherover the course of the year thanks to margins that nearlyreached the double-digits known from the pre-crisis years.
Shares in BMW, perhaps the best market barometer as the onlyremaining pure-play luxury carmaker, hit a record high onThursday before news of a big recall on Friday.
By comparison, Opel Chief Executive Nick Reilly called theEuropean volume car market "still very depressed".
Hyundai Europe Vice President Allan Rushforth stuck to hisforecast last year that the European market wouldn't reachlevels of 13.5 million vehicles until 2014.
"I think I was one of the least optimistic of the pundits inthe auto industry and I still think it will be quite a long timebefore we see a recovery to the sort of markets we've seen in2007," he said.
Back in the world of luxury brands, Ferrari Chariman LucaCordero di Montezemolo said his company would this year earnclose to the all-time record level seen in 2008.
"We are going extremely well in China, very well in HongKong, Singapore, Far East and Middle East and we are just onemonth away from the opening of this fantastic Ferrari theme parkin Abu Dhabi," Montezemolo said.
Sales in China could double to 500 cars in three years time,and Ferrari is even wagering it can sell its stallion-brandedsports cars in India starting in January despite the generallypoor state of the country's roads.
Luxury carmakers are also confident that their volumes willcontinue to rise in 2011, even if the double-digit growth ratesthis year will not likely prove sustainable.
"The prospects for the premium car market next year --because of emerging markets -- are pretty good, but we will seeslower growth," Daimler Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche toldreporters at the show, saying last month was the best Septemberfor Mercedes-Benz in its history.
Maserati marketing director Massimo Farao said he was simplybeing "prudent" when he forecast sales would be flat next year.
Meanwhile, Audi CEO Rupert Stadler was more worried aboutcustomer waiting lists becoming longer, since some smallersuppliers who let workers go could no longer keep up with theburgeoning demand for Audi models like the R8 super sports car.
"None of this matters if you don't have enough doortrimmings, for example," he said. (Editing by Michael Shields)