BMW AG expects to report record sales of E37.85 billion ($32.63 billion) in 2001, a 7.1% increase over 2000. The company, which announces official financial results in March, says it expects to report sales of E33.51 billion ($28.89 billion) from its automobile unit, a 13.1% increase over the year-ago period.

The German auto maker says it sold 905,657 BMW and Mini brand cars and 95,327 BMW motorcycles in the year, both of which are new records.

In his annual letter to shareholders, outgoing BMW Chairman Joachim Milberg says 2001 was “by far the most successful year in the history of the BMW Group.”

In all, 880,677 BMW cars were sold globally last year, with sales of the X5 SUV jumping 118% over prior-year to 82,645 units. Sales of the 3-Series increased 4.5% during the year, while sales of the 5-Series, nearing the end of it current cycle, rose a mere 0.5%.

Mini car sales ended the year at 24,980 units, surpassing initial expectations. Milberg says Mini’s results signify the demand for a high-line small car. “Our expectations have been fulfilled with the sales figures confirming that the Mini is establishing its position as a premium brand in the small car segment,” he says.

The German market remains BMW’s largest in terms of volume. Despite continued economic uncertainty there, BMW says it sold 240,910 BMWs and 4,938 Minis in the country last year.

As for the rest of Western Europe, BMW says deliveries rose to 308,050 units, with the U.K. reporting record sales of 90,871 units, a 17.4% increase over 2000’s results. The controversial new 7-Series sedan got off to a good start in terms of initial sales. The vehicle, which was launched in Europe in the fall, garnered 3,000 sales by year’s end.

BMW also gained share in the U.S. market in 2001, with sales growing by 12.5% to end at 213,127 vehicles. With its overall U.S. sales having quadrupled in the last 10 years, the auto maker claims it now ranks as the top premium European manufacturer in the U.S. market.

Looking ahead, BMW says it anticipates a slight reduction in demand for vehicles globally in 2002. The company remains optimistic that U.S. economic recovery will begin to take hold in the second half, which should help build demand in the rest of the world late in the year.

BMW says that while mass-production auto makers will be hindered by the decline in overall demand, premium manufacturers will ride out the storm.

“Our current view is that the mass market will be weaker,” Milberg says. “The growing demand for premium cars already observed in recent years, on the other hand, will pick up further momentum.”