German luxury carmaker BMW continues to outperform the market with a never-ending increase in new car sales, most of which attract margins that are the envy of many of its competitors. So far, the company appears immune to the slowdown that is overtaking the market. But as its competitors suffer weakening sales, BMW must maintain its run of hit cars to stay ahead of the field.


BMW has posted a 17% increase in group new car sales for the first 11 months of the year, up from 831,900 units in 2001 to 976,300 so far this year. November sales were up 4% to 85,100. Sales increases in Asian markets have been particularly strong.


The company has seemingly been in the ascendancy ever since it disposed of Rover, the British carmaker, and each new model introduced has been a success. The X5 sport activity vehicle and the redesigned Mini have faired especially well, with deliveries of the X5 up 24% to 92,900 so far this year compared to the same period in 2001.


The real success, however, has been the rebirth of the Mini. Sales targets for the updated classic have been increased several times over the course of the year, and sales are expected to top 140,000 units by the end of 2002. The mix of Minis being driven away is also impressive, with over 75,000 Cooper versions, and 23,320 Cooper S, the flagship, sold this year already. New options including cabriolet versions and diesel engines should ensure sales continue to rise.


Vehicle sales in BMW’s major markets – Europe and North America – have been, on the whole, strong for the past two years. Even so, there are signs that consumer confidence is fading, and that vehicle manufacturers will begin to feel the pinch.


One would expect the luxury carmakers to suffer first, as big-ticket purchases are delayed, but there just seems no end to BMW’s ascendancy. As long as BMW continues to produce new models that are both class leading and highly desirable, it will continue to outperform the market.


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