Booming demand for Oxford-built Minis helped BMW buck falling markets and increase sales five per cent in the first half.
The Munich-based premium carmaker, whose brands include Rolls-Royce, was up despite a dip in June, figures yesterday showed.
Among the highlights was the sale of the millionth BMW 3 Series, the group’s biggest seller.
Sales rose 4.7 per cent to 764,874 units, making it the most successful first half BMW has ever had.
However, the company was not entirely able to avoid the difficult economic trends in markets such as the USA and Japan and saw sales slip 2.8 per cent to 146,138 units in June.
Mini was the group’s saving grace in the increasingly bombed out US market last month. With American drivers turning their backs on fuel-thirsty SUVs and pickup trucks, Mini sales rose by 25 per cent to 5,211, outselling the Hummer, the biggest SUV of all, by about two to one.
Year to date figures for the US showed that Mini was 34 per cent ahead at 26,400 units. With stocks of the iconic little car running low, the Oxford plant is working to fulfil US orders up to September.
Such a high level of demand is leading to speculation that with the Oxford plant now operating at, or near, full capacity, a second Mini assembly site may be on the cards.
“The last three months have been the best in our history as the significant structural shift to small cars has brought into our dealerships a diverse range of vehicle owners that currently drive large cars, SUVs and trucks,” said Jim McDowell, vice-president of Mini USA.
Commenting first half group sales, BMW sales and marketing director Ian Robertson said: “In the first half of the year we were able to report solid growth, as planned. Despite difficult economic conditions in certain automobile markets, the BMW Group aims to improve on last year’s sales level for the year as a whole.
“However, we will continue to monitor world markets and their performance so as to react as necessary.”
Deliveries of the BMW brand were up 2.4 per cent between January and June to 637,569 vehicles, driven mainly by demand for the 1 Series.
Global sales of Mini grew by 17.9 per cent to reach a total of 126,810 vehicles, helped by demand for the Clubman model.
Launched last November as the third model in the line-up, Clubman now accounts for every fifth Mini sold.
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars delivered 495 super-luxury Phantoms to customers in the first half of the year, an increase of 68.4 per cent over the same period in 2007. June deliveries rose by 56.2 per cent to 114 vehicles.
BMW’s motorcycle division was unable to maintain last year’s level in the first half of the year. Sales fell by 5.6 per cent to 55,932 units while in June the company sold six per cent fewer two-wheelers.
BMW’s sales performance is in contrast to its revenues and profits, which have dipped recently in the teeth of rising raw material costs and the global credit crunch.