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Demand drives BMW to gains in US sales for German brands

From China Economic| June 05,2007

Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, the world's largest maker of luxury cars, has led gains in US sales for German brands in May on demand for revamped X5 sport-utility vehicles and 3-Series cars.

BMW said that May sales have risen 8.7 percent, while DaimlerChrysler AG's Mercedes Benz unit, Porsche AG, Volkswagen AG and Volkswagen's Audi have also posted increases.

"European car buyers tend to be more immune from gas prices, for example, since this is more the luxury segment," said analyst Rebecca Lindland of Global Insight Inc in Lexington, Massachusetts. "They aren't subject to some of the typical pressures."

The surge by German brands mirrored increases by other auto makers in May, as US sales jumped 5 percent to a 2007 high of 1.56 million vehicles, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News.

Sales for the 15 European auto makers in the US market rose 2.7 percent to 105,632 cars and trucks. Their market share slipped 0.1 percentage point to 6.8 percent; Asian auto makers boosted their share by 1.2 points to 41.4 percent.

May was only the second month of gains for US auto sales this year, as rising fuel prices and declining home sales had kept buyers away from showrooms. The average price of a gallon of gasoline hit an all-time high of US$3.23 during May, according to the American Automobile Association.

BMW's US sales increased to 30,819 cars and SUVs from 28,360 a year earlier, the Munich-based company said in a statement.

Sales of BMW-brand vehicles climbed 8.1 percent to 26,689 units, while demand for the company's Mini models increased about 13 percent to 4,130 units. Sales for the X5 SUV jumped 32 percent, and the 3-series cars rose 28 percent. Demand for the 5-, 6-, and 7-Series cars fell.

"Sales of all the new styles for the new 3-Series bodies and the continuing strength of the X5 will continue to drive BMW," Lindland said.

Volkswagen, Europe's largest car maker, said US sales of the namesake brand rose one percent in May.

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