FRANKFURT -- German luxury carmaker BMW said Tuesday that it had sold fewer BMW brand cars in January than the same month last year as key models aged before forthcoming updates, but it remained confident for the full year.
The company based in Munich, Germany, said that BMW brand January sales fell 7.5 percent to 64,800 cars in January, although sales of the small Mini almost doubled to 15,100, lifting overall BMW group sales by 2.7 percent.
BMW faces a tough ride in the first half of this year ahead of a spate of new-model launches, with analysts expecting a turning point around the middle of the year as its reaps the benefits of the new-product drive.
"The BMW brand recorded a decline in sales largely due to the effect of model cycles," the company said in a statement, but added it was confident of lifting sales over the year as a whole.
The BMW brand sales growth so far this year puts it behind main rival Mercedes, the luxury unit of DaimlerChrysler, which said Thursday that sales of Mercedes brand passenger cars alone rose 1 percent to 81,100 vehicles.
Overall Mercedes group sales dipped 0.5 percent to 87,100 vehicles, weighed down by a sharp drop in sales of its small Smart cars.
"It's no surprise that we've seen a decrease in BMW brand sales in January. 2002 and 2003 are transition years for BMW until the model offensive starts to take effect," HVB autos analyst Georg Stuerzer said.
The company is launching a version of its key 5-series saloon this year as well as a diesel version of the Mini and three updated versions of its 3 series. It also will unveil a small X-3 SUV and a 6-series coupe.
"After the market launch of new models and model updates, the company is assuming that sales will rise in 2003, with increasing energy in the second half, for all of the group's brands compared with the previous year," BMW said.
The costs ahead of the launches have unnerved some investors. BMW stock has lost almost a third of its value and underperformed the DJ European autos index by close to 10 percent since it posted third-quarter figures in early November that raised concerns about profit margin slippage.
The company, which declines to say how profitable individual models are, said sales of its outgoing 5 series fell by 23 percent in January to 10,870, while 3-series sales also dipped, falling about 6 percent to 40,970.
BMW sold 1.057 million vehicles last year and said late last month that revenues had risen almost 10 percent to 42.28 billion euros, although sales in the fourth quarter slipped slightly.