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BMW Aims for 6th Straight Year of Unit Sales Growth

Capping a record year in 2006 with a 10% jump in group vehicle deliveries last month, BMW aims to continue in 2007 with its sixth straight year of sales growth, the company said on Sunday.

"We want to continue the BMW Group's success story in 2007. "That is to say we intend to achieve new sales records for every brand," Chief Executive Norbert Reithofer said in a statement issued at the North American International Auto Show here.

Strong sales of the new Mini model helped BMW boost group car sales 10.5% in December, helping the company keep the title of the world's biggest premium carmaker.

BMW group car sales advanced 3.5% in 2006 to just over 1.37 million units, easily keeping it ahead of DaimlerChrysler's Mercedes Car Group premium division, whose sales last year rose 3.2% to 1.26 million.

Michael Ganal, head of sales and marketing at BMW, nudged the group's 2007 sales target of 1.4 million units up a bit, telling reporters he was confident it could exceed that goal. He declined to say whether earnings growth would keep pace this year.

But Ganal also said it was "pretty certain" that BMW reached its target of boosting 2006 pre-tax profit to 4 billion euros ($5.24 billion) from nearly 3.29 billion in 2005.

The last time that BMW reported a decline in annual group vehicle deliveries was 2001, when the Mini first hit show rooms in the second half and also the group's first year following the sale of the Rover and Land Rover brands in May and June of 2000, respectively.

Rolls-Royce

For December alone, sales of BMW brand cars rose 7.8% alone to 114,995 units, bringing 2006 deliveries to nearly 1.19 million cars, a gain of 5.2%.

Mini brand sales slipped 6.2% for the year to 188,072 cars as it retooled its plant in Oxford for the second generation Mini model that went on sale in mid-November. Its launch led to the sharp sales gain to 13,991 units in December.

BMW delivered 163 Rolls-Royce luxury cars in December, down 7.4%. But full-year sales rose 1.1% to 805 units, representing the third year in a row where deliveries have stagnated after sales of 796 in 2005 and 792 in year before that, the first full year of sales for the new Phantom.

BMW's top-selling car remains the BMW 3 Series family, whose sales rose 17.1% last year to 508,498 vehicles -- 43% of BMW brand sales. That was followed by the BMW 5 Series car, the small BMW 1 Series car and the X3 sport utility vehicle.