Mini and Rolls-Royce help BMW power to record sales

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BMW, the world's biggest luxury car maker, has reported record sales in the first three months of this year, driven by booming demand for its UK-made Mini and Rolls-Royce marques.

The company, which makes the official cars for London's 2012 Olympics, said it now planned to increase sales faster than its rivals for the rest of 2012.

The luxury car maker also said sales in China had overtaken those in the US for the first time in its history.

The news comes at time when the UK car manufacturing industry is on course for potentially its best-ever year. Already this week Nissan has announced that its new hatchback will be built in Sunderland, following on from news that its new Innovation model will also be built in this country. Those two models are expected to create up to 3,000 jobs over the next three years.

The fly in the ointment came yesterday in the form of workers at the Mini plant in Oxford rejecting a pay deal from BMW, raising the prospect of their first strike since 1984. The Unite union said yesterday that BMW's 4 per cent offer had too many strings attached. Talks are continuing.

BMW sold 426,000 cars between January and March, 11.2 per cent more than in the same period last year. March sales rose by 12 per cent to 186,000.

Ian Robertson, the board member for sales and marketing, said: "BMW achieved an all-time high in sales last month and the best first quarter in its history. "These outstanding results are due to our attractive, young model range and our strategy of healthy, balanced growth across the globe.

"We aim to continue the momentum with additional new models this year, such as the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe and a model revision of the flagship BMW 7 Series." Mini sales rose 12.1 per cent in the three months to 68,000.