Official launch day is not until 14 March, but BMW (GB) dealers have already pre-sold more than half of this year’s allocation of the all-new 7-series luxury saloon.

The dealers have had enough information to pre-sell the cars since the 7-series made its international debut “with journalists crowded five deep around display cars – at last September’s Frankfurt motor show.

So far, the British retailers, who each received at least one demonstrator car in January, have taken approximately 800 orders with more coming in daily.

“A month or two after launch in March, we should have sold the lot,” said BMW (GB)’s product marketing manager Greg Eastwood.

In Britain, the V8-powered 735i (actually 3.6 litres) and 745i (4.4) variants are not cheap, skewing this launch range towards the top end of the class to target the Mercedes-Benz S-class and Lexus LS430 in their (optional) four-beam bi-xenon headlamps.

BMW has set a very high standard specification with leather, wood, electric seats, sat-nav and most other expected trimmings ” and the rest are on a huge options list. We would query only the absence of seat heaters (£270 extra for each of front and rear) and the single CD player as well as a stacker; why not a cassette player (a different radio with cassette deck is also £270 more)?

Also optional is a £500 five-year, 75,000-mile service and maintenance package which can be transferred to another owner.

BMW insiders freely admit the 7-series has not been their best value retainer in the UK though they argue that the rival S-class has been helped by exports of sought-after used examples to other right hand drive countries such as Japan.

Nevertheless, the heavily subsidised maintenance package is part of a determined bid to boost residual values which are critical for competitive lease rates in the UK. The target is 45 percent after three years and 60,000 miles (96,000km).

New 7-series buyers are expected to be predominantly male, average age early 50s, with two-thirds self-employed and a quarter likely to be chauffeur-driven captains of industry.

BMW is predicting a substantial rise in the number of luxury sedans sold in the UK from a recent average of 10,000-11,000 a year to around 17,000 by 2004. Contributing factors: the new 7, of course, and new models from Jaguar and Audi.

From this year’s 1,400, BMW expects 7-series sales to rise to 3,000 annually once long wheelbase and V12 760i variants come on stream this year and the three-litre straight-six petrol and diesel versions arrive in 2003.

No matter what market sector it is competing in, the German company never fires all its barrels at once.