BMW aims for top spot in 2012 as luxury sales soar
The Munich-based company said on Monday that worldwide sales of BMW, MINI and Rolls-Royce cars rose 14.2 percent to 1.67 million last year.
Appetite for ultra-luxury cars was unfettered, with annual sales of Rolls-Royce vehicles in 2011 rising to the highest level ever in the company's 107-year history, jumping almost 31 percent to 3,538 cars.
Finance chief Friedrich Eichiner said last week he expected the global market for premium cars to grow at a rate of more than 8 percent 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 percent 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 U.S., 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 (GM.N) 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 U.S. market's growth prospects", after the German carmaker's sales there grew by almost 15 percent 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.