BMW posts record car sales

BMW posted record car sales for 2011 – with worldwide sales of BMW, MINI and Rolls-Royce cars increasing 14.2 per cent to 1.67 million last year.

Annual sales of Rolls-Royce vehicles in 2011 rose to the highest level ever in the company's 107-year history, jumping almost 31 per cent to 3,538 cars. The record sales follow the announcement last September that Rolls-Royce intend to expand its manufacturing plant at Goodwood in West Sussex. Work on this will begin next month.

BMW finance chief Friedrich Eichiner said last week he expected the global market for premium cars to grow at a rate of more than 8 per cent this year, more than twice as fast as the overall car market, which should work in favour of BMW.

Volkswagen said last week that 2011 sales of Bentley cars rose 37 per cent to 7,003 after recording the brand's second-highest sales volume ever in December.

BMW last year grabbed the top spot in luxury cars in the US, its biggest single market, edging out Toyota's Lexus and Daimler's Mercedes-Benz.

The news comes as the Detroit Auto Show opens on Monday, where car makers are showing off upcoming models such as Cadillac's ATS, with which General Motors is squarely targeting BMW's 3 Series.

BMW Chief Executive Norbert Reithofer earlier said in a newspaper interview that he was "very optimistic about the US market's growth prospects", after the German carmaker's sales there grew by almost 15 per cent there in 2011.

Reithofer told The Wall Street Journal he expects BMW to grow faster than the overall market in 2012, after entering the new year with strong orders.

"We're starting 2012 with a very good order book and very young model range ... this should provide some momentum," he said.

Growth will be fastest in the second half of the year thanks to sales of the new BMW 3 Series to be launched worldwide next month, Reithofer said.

One in three BMWs sold is a 3 Series, and the new car is crucial for BMW to fend off rivals Mercedes-Benz and Audi , the premium brand of Volkswagen, though the model changeover will cost a chunk of money this year.

BMW said the rate of sales growth slowed to 11.9 percent in December.

Meanwhile, Volkswagen said it saw sales of more than eight million vehicles last year.  Germany's dapd news agency cited Volkswagen chief executive Martin Winterkorn as saying in Detroit that VW had delivered 8.156 million vehicles in 2011, a 14 per cent rise over the previous year.

Toyota has reported sales of 7.9 million vehicles in 2011, while General Motors has not yet reported. However, it is expected to have sold some nine million based on projections from the first three quarters.

Winterkorn is holding a press conference later in the day at the Detroit Auto Show to release full figures. Volkswagen's brands include Audi, Skoda and Seat.

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