FRANKFURT -- BMW AG will relaunch its top selling 3-series model in Europe and parts of Asia on March 5, the company said on Tuesday.
A successful rollout of the new 3 series, which competes with the Mercedes C class and Audi A4, is critical to the future growth of BMW.
More than half of the brand's car sales stem from the 3 series, and the previous fourth-generation model of the car had sales of 2.9 million units between its launch in 1998 and this past September.
While customers in Japan will be able to walk out of dealerships with a shiny new 3 series in early March, BMW says the car won't go on sale in the United States -- its single largest market -- until next summer.
A spokesman for BMW declined to provide sales targets for the new 3 series on Tuesday, either for next year or for the car's entire life-cycle.
The Munich-based carmaker has overtaken arch-rival Mercedes Car Group, a unit of DaimlerChrysler, in terms of vehicle sales through September but it doesn't aim to stop there.
BMW wants to increase group sales, which include the Mini and Rolls-Royce brands, to 1.4 million units by 2008.
While new 3 series will initially be available only as a sedan, customers will be offered a choice between four different engines ranging in size from a 2.0-liter four cylinder to a 3.0-liter inline six cylinder.
Only one of the four, the 320d, will be a diesel, although BMW said it would later offer a 3.0-liter diesel as well.
The company will successively roll out wagon, coupe and cabrio derivatives. A compact version will no longer be produced, with the new 1-series hatchback replacing it in this smaller segment.