DETROIT – BMW AG says it expects to garner 2% of the U.S. market in 2004, up 0.4 percentage points from 2003.
BMW expects new vehicles such as the 6-Series to prop up sales volumes in 2004.

Year-end sales results also show the U.S. bypassed Germany as BMW’s largest market for the first time.

“The U.S. market became the single biggest market in the world (for BMW in 2003), surpassing Germany,” BMW Chairman Helmut Panke says at the North American International Auto Show here. “We are committed to gain and grow market share (in the U.S.). There will be no slowdown, no period of rest for the BMW Group.”

BMW Group (which includes the BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce brands) says it sold a record 1.1 million vehicles worldwide in 2003.

The BMW brand accounted for 928,000 vehicles, a 1.6% increase from year-ago.

Panke says while the BMW brand posted positive results for the year, it did experience some hiccups during the first half as it completed the launch of its 5-Series, 6-Series and X3 SUV.

“We anticipated…an atypical development for the BMW brand due to product-development cycles. That’s exactly what happened,” he says.

The auto maker rebounded from the heavy launch schedule during the second half, when it delivered 473,000 vehicles worldwide.

Panke is especially pleased by the performance of the new 5-Series, which went on sale in the second half of the year in Europe and the U.S. BMW says sales of the 5-Series were up 37% in the second half thanks to the new model.

BMW uses the auto show here to launch its new 6-Series convertible, of which a majority of its volume is destined for the U.S., Panke says.

Sales results for the Mini brand also were positive, with global volumes ending at 175,000 units, a 21.4% increase over like-2002. At Rolls-Royce, sales of the Phantom, which was introduced at last year’s NAIAS, totaled 300 units. Panke says 50% of the Phantom’s output was sold in the U.S.

kekelly@primediabusiness.com