North American Int’l Auto ShowDETROIT – BMW AG unveils at the North American International Auto Show here its Motorsports division-tuned variant of the Z4 roadster, saying the new M Roadster is an example of the auto maker’s ambition to continue expanding its model range – and its sales figures.

BMW sold slightly more than 1.3 million vehicles globally in 2005, says Chairman Helmut Panke.

The record figure represents a 9.9% increase over 2004 and includes sales from BMW’s Mini and Rolls-Royce brands. Panke says the company expects in 2006 to exceed last year’s sales.

For 2006, “We expect to continue to grow,” says Panke. “The positive momentum will continue.”

BMW Z4 Concept.

He says BMW’s growth curve is due to a concentrated effort to expand its model lineup, both globally and in the U.S. In America, BMW this summer will be offering a refreshed Z4, the M Roadster and a production version of the Z4 Coupe Concept Study unveiled here.

The Coupe Concept Study signals the return of the hardtop variant of the Z4 roadster, which to now was discontinued for the current Z4 body style.

Tom Purves, BMW of North America LLC’s CEO, says U.S. sales increased 2.5% to 266,200 units, including Mini and Rolls-Royce. Mini sales accounted for 40,800 of the total.

Most notable was a 15% increase in 5-Series sales. Purves also says the all-new 3-Series outsold the previous-generation car by 14,000 units in the first three months that it went on sale.

Purves says BMW’s U.S. popularity is the result of many factors, including the auto maker’s free-maintenance plan for every new vehicle. BMW remains one of the only premium-vehicle makers to continue with the free-scheduled maintenance program.

“In our experience, customers do not like receiving service bills,” Purves says.

He also says the company’s Spartanburg, SC, assembly plant is ready to resume production after a planned shutdown to convert from two assembly lines to a single line.

The newly flexible layout allows disparately-sized vehicles, such as the Z4 and X5 cross/utility vehicle, to now proceed down the same assembly line. (See related story: BMW To Idle SC Assembly Plant )

bvisnic@primediabusiness.com