DETROIT – Against the backdrop of the new Lamborghini Murcielago LP 640 and Gallardo LP 560-4 Spyder, introduced at the North American International Auto Show here, CEO Stephan Winkelmann says the Italian auto maker increased worldwide sales last year.

Deliveries rose to 2,430 units from year-ago’s 2,406, for a 1% increase. While that’s only an uptick, it looks good in comparison with the double-digit losses suffered by much of the industry in the gloomy year.

“In light of worldwide economic insecurities and sluggish car markets, this record year above all proves the sustainability of our business strategy,” Winkelmann says.

“We know there are tough times ahead now, but we have increased the value and attractiveness of our luxury brand in so many facets that we are ready to take on whatever challenges the future might bring us.”

Lamborghini will continue to launch at least one new model each year, while continuing its expansion into new markets, such as the Middle East and Asia.

The auto maker’s sales in the Middle East jumped 66% last year, to 166 units from year-ago’s 100, while deliveries in China spiked 160%, to 72 from 28, Winkelmann says.

While it continues to push for growth, Lamborghini will not abandon its long-term strategy: Investment in research and development will not be reduced, and the ongoing expansion of its brand presence on a worldwide scale will continue.

While the ultra-luxury Italian auto maker’s U.S. sales in 2008 tumbled 20.3%, to 741 units from prior-year’s 930, Winkelmann says traditional markets such as Germany and the U.K. saw single-digit increases. Deliveries in France jumped 27%, South Korea 100% and Hong Kong 120%.

Sales in Lamborghini’s home market climbed 10% to 230 units, making Italy the brand’s second-largest market wordwide.

dstark@wardsauto.com