BMW is heading for a record year after surging Chinese demand for its cars helped to drive profits higher in the first quarter.
The German high-end carmaker said it was on course to sell more than 2m vehicles in a year for the first time.
Sales rose 8.7% in the first three months of the year to a new high of 487,024 units. Pre-tax profit jumped 8.1% to €2.17bn (£1.78bn).
In Asia, sales increased 22% to 158,582, powered by China where orders jumped by a quarter to 108,143. Chinese sales outstripped those for the Americas, where BMW sold 99,840 cars – up 3.5%.
BMW’s chairman, Norbert Reithofer, said: “We are on course to achieve significant sales volume growth in the current year, leading to a new all-time high of over 2m vehicles. We are aiming for a new record group profit before tax figure, which will be significantly higher than in the previous year.”
Sales of BMW-branded cars rose 12% to 428,259 while sales of its luxury Rolls-Royce marque jumped 40% to 897.
Demand was high for Phantom and Ghost Rolls-Royce cars, and orders were strong for the new Wraith model, BMW said. All the cars are built at the Rolls-Royce division’s factory at Goodwood in Sussex.
Mini sales fell by 12% in the first quarter but BMW said this was expected because the brand’s main model, the Hatch, was updated in March. Interest in the new Hatch, manufactured in Oxford, was high and would feed in to strong sales from the summer, it said.
Reithofer said BMW had increased profits while spending more on product development and staff and in the face of strong competition.
BMW increased its workforce by almost 5,000 to 111,378 from a year earlier as the group hired engineers and skilled workers to meet demand for its cars and to work on new technologies.