DETROIT – Compared with the terrific beating most auto makers endured last year, BMW AG emerged with only minor cuts and bruises, down 10.4% for the year and looking forward to a better 2010 following a 10% sales uptick in December.

In 2009, the BMW Group, including Rolls-Royce and Mini brands, sold 1,286,310 vehicles worldwide, down 10.4% from 2008. Broken down by brand, BMW delivered 1,068,770 vehicles, Mini sold 216,491 and Rolls-Royce delivered just over 1,000.

Considering the magnitude of the global economic crisis and its devastating impact on the auto industry, “We are quite satisfied with these figures,” says Ian Robertson, BMW’s head of global sales and marketing.

“Since September last year, the BMW Group’s global automobile sales have been back above 2008 levels, and they continue to climb,” Robertson tells reporters at the North American International Auto Show here.

Robertson says December showed especially encouraging growth, with the auto maker tallying 123,751 sales, more than 10% better than prior-year.

Altogether, BMW Group outperformed the average for the premium-vehicle segment last year, and it maintained its position as the world’s largest premium-vehicle seller, Robertson says.

In the U.S., BMW sold 241,727 BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce vehicles, down 20% compared with 2008, but better than the average for the U.S. premium-ehicle segment.

“December gave us cause for optimism here in the U.S.,” Robertson says. “Last month, our sales were up 9.2%, compared with the same month the previous year,”

For 2010, BMW is looking for global growth in the single digits. Robertson is reluctant to be as specific about U.S. sales and says only that the auto maker is expecting to achieve better sales than in 2009.

dwinter@wardsauto.com