DETROIT -- BMW on Monday posted a 9.4 percent increase in global sales to a record 1.208 million vehicles in 2004 and forecast a similar growth rate for the current year.
While BMW confirmed that 2004 earnings would correlate roughly with its performance in car sales, the Munich-based company was more cautious about this year's profits.
"2005 will be more complex and more of a challenge," Chief Executive Helmut Panke told journalists on the sidelines of the Detroit motor show.
Earnings will be hit by added expenses for currency hedging and high raw material prices.
Panke said that BMW's hedging against expected U.S. dollar exposure in 2005 rose to over 50 percent versus earlier guidance of over one third.
BMW has managed to drive from one historic best to the next, deftly outpacing an industry-wide malaise thanks to its reputation for beefy engines matched with sporty handling, all wrapped up in a striking package of sleek steel curves.
With its most important model, the mid-sized 3-Series saloon, totally revamped and waiting in the starting blocks for a March launch, the company confirmed 2005 would be another sunny year for car sales.
"We will continue to increase sales of the BMW Group after the record year 2004," Panke said, adding that he expected the company could deliver another high single-figure percentage growth rate this year.
"X" HITS THE SPOT
Sales of its core BMW-brand cars last year performed better than the carmaker had hoped for, rising 10.3 percent to 1.023 million units.
Thanks to a successful product offensive that includes the hot new X3 offroader and 1-Series hatchback, BMW beat its sales target of high single-digit percentage growth and breached the 1 million mark for the first time in its history.
Key to BMW's strength is the high demand for its popular sport-utility vehicles. Despite the addition of 92,000 unit sales from the slightly more compact X3 offroader, there was no evidence it cannibalized sales of BMW's larger X5 model, which remained stable at around 105,000 vehicles in 2004.
Deliveries of its Mini brand also rose 4.5 percent to 184,357 cars in 2004, helped by strong sales of its cabrio version.
Less fortunate was its ultra-luxury Rolls-Royce unit, which came nowhere close to its initial sales target of 1,000 Phantoms as it managed to unload only 792 of the high-end limousines.
Nonetheless, the group still managed to outpace rival DaimlerChrysler. On Sunday, Daimler luxury unit Mercedes Car Group reported a marginal sales decline to 1.201 million cars last year.
"Global sales of BMW Group automobiles performed better than both the market and the premium segment," Panke said in a statement.