BMW had its best ever year for sales in the US in 2005, despite a rare reversal for its popular Mini brand in December.
The group, which builds Mini at the former Rover plant at Oxford, saw its total sales rise by four cent to 307,020 last year - the first time it has passed the 300,000 threshold since it arrived in the US in 1975.
It was another record year for Mini with sales increasing by 13 per cent to a record 40,820.
The figures were dented, however, by the December contribution, which yielded a 1.3 per cent dip in group sales to 28,900 while Mini volumes fell by 36 per cent to 2,436.
"December was Christmas shopping month so buyers did not go into the showrooms in their usual numbers," a BMW spokeswoman said.
This week's US car sales figures showed that General Motors and Ford, the two
biggest Detroit manufacturers, had capped a tumultuous year in which they struggled to come to terms with changing consumer tastes prompted by higher petrol prices prices with a further fall in sales.
In sharp contrast, Toyota, which is poised to unseat GM as the world's largest carmaker, posted an 8.2 per cent increase in December sales and grabbed more market share from US manufacturers last month.
Toyota, including its Lexus and Scion brands, outsold Chrysler in December and its
US market share of 13.3 per cent last year puts it well within striking distance of Chrysler's 13.6 per cent.
GM and Ford, each facing a deepening financial crisis, said December sales were
down 10.2 per cent and 8.7 per cent, respectively, with steep declines in high fuel-consumpution SUVs.
"GM, and Ford suffered particularly because of the collapse of their big SUVs," Burnham Securities analyst Dave Healy said. "I think you can call Detroit an island surrounded by prosperity," he added
DaimlerChrysler said its US sales fell by two per cent last month, with sales at its Chrysler division five per cent down.
Chrysler was the lone
Detroit carmaker to end the year ahead after seeing total sales rise by five per cent.
Given "volatile gas prices", overall car sales this year are likely to be lower than in 2005, Mark Fields, president of Ford's operations in the Americas, said at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
But GM expects industry sales in 2006 to be about comparable to 2005 with relatively stable pricing and oil prices in the mid- to high-$50 per barrel range, Paul Ballew, GM's executive director of market and industry analysis, said.
Asian brands won a 36.5 per cent share of the US market last year, a 1.9 percentage point increase compared with the same period a year ago.
US companies on the other hand, collectively lost 1.7 points of share at 57 per cent.
Total sales fell by 4.5 per cent in December to 1.48 million vehicles but the industry ended the year with deliveries of about 16.9 million vehicles, making 2005 one of the strongest.