Record sales for BMW are driven by British icons

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The Independent Online

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, setting records for its BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce brands. It also said sales in China had overtaken those in the US for the first time.

The good 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 of 2011. 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 luxurious 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, with particularly strong demand for the Mini Countryman, where sales have grown 37 per cent to 22,000.

At Rolls-Royce, first-quarter sales grew from 723 cars to 770.

Sales in China rose 37 per cent in the quarter to 80,000, against the US where sales rose 17 per cent to 76,000.

BMW's third largest market, Germany, saw a mere 2 per cent rise in sales to 66,000 in the quarter, although there was a strong rise in demand in March.

Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders showed that BMW model sales were flat in the UK during the first quarter at 30,000, while Mini sales fell by 6 per cent to 11,581.