DETROIT – BMW AG’s Mini subsidiary casts a brief ray of sunshine in the otherwise gloomy forecasts that are dominating the North American International Auto Show here.

Stefan Krause, sales and marketing chief, says Mini sold 222,000 units worldwide in 2007, an 18.5% increase over prior-year and a new all-time high for the brand.

What’s more, Krause is looking at continued growth this year, thanks to the introduction of the roomy new Mini Clubman model, introduced in the U.S. last November at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

“Our decision to expand production capacity at our Oxford, England, plant was obviously the right one, even though we had to interrupt production on occasion last year for model changeover and capacity expansion,” he says.

The brand also did well in the U.S., which now is the Mini’s second-largest market behind the U.K. U.S. sales hit 42,000 units last year, up 7% from 2006.

Besides outpacing Germany (now Mini’s third-largest market), the U.S. is among the most lucrative for the auto maker, with more than 50% of sales comprised of the upscale Cooper S model, and 20% of all convertible sales ordered with the top-of-the-line Sidewalk version of that model.

Due to growing volume in the U.S., Mini will expand its dealer network from 82 to 95 by 2010.

dwinter@wardsauto.com