BMW outsold Audi by 1,709 units globally in the first quarter to retain its place as the world’s No. 1 premium brand according to data released by the company.

Global sales increased 13.8% to 265,809 in the quarter against 264,100 sales for Audi. BMW reported strong demand for the new X1 small crossover (19,657 sales) and recently redesigned 7-series sedan, up 54% with 14,245 sales.

Sales and marketing chief Ian Robertson said the company expects sales to continue to grow following the introduction of the redesigned 5-series last month and revised versions of the 3-series coupe and convertible being launched this month.

Other new models due out this year include the new Magna Steyr-built Mini Countryman small crossover which is to be launched in the autumn.

BMW Group sales rose 12.1% in March to 141,701 units versus 126,381 a year ago. BMW brand vehicles climbed 12.7% to 117,696 (previous year 104,423). Mini delivered 23,880 vehicles in March (previous year 21,888 / +9.1%), while Rolls-Royce sold 125 cars, up from 70 in March 2009, a rise of 78.6%.

Last week, Audi overtook Mercedes-Benz for the first time in global quarterly new car sales. The VW-owned brand’s next target is BMW as it aims to become the world’s most successful luxury automaker in the world by 2015 with sales of around 1.5m cars a year.

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Despite the overall downward market trend, the BMW group was the only German manufacturer to also make gains in its home market of Germany where it expanded market share with 56,617 sales in the first three months of the year, up 1.4% on 2009.

In the United States, the company posted a 7.4% increase in volumes, with sales of
55,051 in the first quarter, up from 51,244 last year.