BEIJING - Fiat's Ferrari luxury car unit expects China to become one of its top five global markets in five years, by marketing to the growing ranks of affluent Chinese, a senior company official said on Tuesday.

Ferrari aimed to sell about 600 units per year in China over the same timeframe, Marco Mattiacci, the company's Asia-Pacific chief executive told Reuters in an interview.

Although the United States would remain the most important market for Ferrari, China had the potential to climb the ladder and catch up with countries like Germany and Italy, where annual sales were around 600 units, Mattiacci said.

I believe China will be around probably those figures -- the same level as Germany and Italy, he told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.

China was among Ferrari's top 10 markets, in which it had sold around 650 cars since entering the market five years ago, Mattiacci told Reuters at a company event to unveil the 599 GTB Fiorano model.

With fast-growing levels of affluence, China, already the world's biggest car market, has become attractive to the world's biggest sports car brands.

Porsche PSHGp.DE, Ferrari's German rival, took the wraps off its much-awaited Panamera grand tourer on the eve of the Shanghai Auto Show in April, demonstrating the significance of the Chinese market.

After years of rapid growth, Chinese consumers have grown more knowledgable about cars and are calling for better quality from foreign and domestic makers, making the market even more competitive. Today, China is the No.1 car market in the world, but great improvement is needed in terms of quality, design and customer service, Mattiacci said.

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Fiat, Ferrari's parent, formed a 50-50 joint venture with China's Guangzhou Automobile in July to produce car engines in China, where sales are booming. (Reporting by Michael Wei and Kirby Chien; Editing by Chris Lewis)