BMW profit up 18 percent as 1-Series drives high sales image

German auto maker BMW AG on Thursday posted higher than expected earnings for the first quarter as demand for the revamped 1-Series compact fueled record deliveries.

“We are still aiming to achieve new record figures for sales volume and pretax earnings in 2012,” BMW chief executive Norbert Reithofer said.

Earnings before interest and taxes rose 19 percent to 2.13 billion euros ($2.8 billion) from 1.8 billion euros a year earlier, the Munich-based company said today in a statement. Pretax profit increased 22 percent year-on-year to €2.08 billion. Analysts expected profits to come in lower than in the first quarter last year due to launch costs for new vehicles.

Sales were flat in Europe where the economy is slack, but the German automaker saw a 36 per cent jump in deliveries in China, where it now sells more vehicles than it does in the United States. US sales rose 16 per cent.

The Group continues to target an EBIT margin between 8 and 10% in the Automotive segment, while Financial Services segment still aims for a return on equity of at least 18% in the Financial Services segment for the financial year 2012.

BMW’s workforce grew by 5.4 percent over the past year and it employed 101,260 people at the end of the quarter.