Business is booming so far this year, according to BMW chief executive Norbert Reithofer who told the Italian daily Il Sole 24 Ore that the carmaker aimed to stay independent through partnerships.

Reithofer said BMW had made a good start to 2011 and is targeting record sales for all its brands.

He also confirmed the company’s target of selling more than 1.5m units in 2011. Last month BMW reported a January sales rise of 28% year-on-year to 105,177 vehicles, while February unit sales were up 20%.

BMW is expecting a strong growth impulse from China, where it sees double-digit growth this year, but Reithofer added that he sees India and Brazil as the “next China” in terms of growth.

Sales will be slower in Europe, however, he said. “The old continent accounts for around half our sales. We expect it to continue to grow slightly over the next years.”

Regarding BMW’s future, Reithofer said: “Our intention is to remain independent over the next 10 years through innovation and partnerships focused on parts and engines.”

He pointed to the group’s partnerships with Daimler and Peugeot as examples of its on-going strategy to reduce costs and pursue innovation. BMW and Peugeot are planning to invest EUR100m (US$140m) in a hybrid technology joint venture.