German carmakers see strong Q1 as January sales soar

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Sales by German luxury automakers got off to a roaring start in January and should post a strong first quarter, they said Tuesday, with BMW and Daimler also sticking to record full-year forecasts.

Solid results were reported worldwide, though some sector weakness was noted in certain western European markets.

BMW, the world's leading premium car maker, said they sold more than 105,000 BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce vehicles, a gain of nearly 30 percent.

"We expect growth rates to remain strong over the next few months, although the pace will slow a little in the second half of the year, due to baseline effects" from good results in late 2010, sales director Ian Robertson said.

The group reaffirmed its sales goal of more than 1.5 million vehicles this year, which would be a new record.

Audi, which is owned by Volkswagen, said its January sales were 22.6 percent higher at 95,400 units, with sales chief Peter Schwarzenbauer adding: "Based on the current order situation, we expect a strong first quarter in 2011."

Although sector-wide declines were registered in Britain, Italy and Spain, Audi said it had bucked the trend to record "significant growth in all core European markets."

Last week, Daimler reported record sales in January with a 23 percent increase to 82,700 Mercedes-Benz, Maybach and Smart vehicles.

For the full year, "our goal is to surpass the sales record set in 2007" of 1.293 million vehicles, marketing director Joachim Schmidt said.

All three groups said sales were sustained worldwide, with even the previously soft domestic German market reporting double-digit gains.

China and the United States remained healthy markets and some emerging economies turned in exceptional results, including leaps of 111.1 percent in Brazil, 52.9 percent in South Korea and 46.6 percent in India for BMW.

Audi's biggest jump was in China, with a 32.1 percent increase to 22,196 vehicles.

© 2011 AFP

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