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Rolls-Royce Rolls to Record Sales; U.S. #1 Again

Rolls-Royce, long considered the ultimate ultra-luxury car, is more popular than ever before. The British automaker set a global sales record in 2012 selling 3,575 cars.

This is the third straight year Rolls has grown sales around the world. It is also the most cars it has sold in one year, surpassing the previous high 3,374 in 1978.

"We are the pinnacle of all luxury brands in the world," said Torsten Muller-Otvos, CEO of Rolls-Royce. "We are interested in constant growth over the years to come, but sustainable growth."

Ghost Success in New Markets

Driving the record sales at Rolls was demand for the company's popular Ghost model. At $260,000 the Rolls-Royce Ghost model is considered the "Baby Rolls" and has been attracting buyers as the luxury brand has expanded into new markets like Chile and Brazil. The company now has more than 100 dealerships around the world.

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Where is Rolls seeing the most growth? Germany and Russia, where sales doubled last year. The company also saw strong growth in Asia-Pacific countries, Great Britain and the Middle East where the type of Rolls being sold is slightly different.

"Middle Eastern customers are completely different from British customers, and for that reason you might see more shiny, different colors in the Middle East," Muller-Otvos said.

U.S. replaces China as #1

Visitors look at a Rolls-Royce Phantom luxury automobile.
Balint Porneczi | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Visitors look at a Rolls-Royce Phantom luxury automobile.

Perhaps the most interesting change in sales for Rolls-Royce happened in the U.S., which passed China as the luxury automaker's top market.

"The United States proved to be quite strong at the end of the year, and we've had a certain slowdown in the Chinese market," Muller-Otvos said.

(Read More: What the Wealthy Are Driving.)

The slowdown in China sales is believed to have been prompted by the change in leadership in that country and wealthy citizens holding off on major purchases until they could gauge the tenor of the new political leaders in that country.

Within the U.S. the biggest market has long been southern California. But even with an economy slowly recovering, U.S. sales for Rolls-Royce fell 18.8 percent last year according to the research firm Autodata.

(Read More: The 10 Most Beautiful Cars of All Time.)

—By CNBC's Phil LeBeau; Follow him on Twitter @LeBeauCarNews

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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