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BMW sales fall 5 percent in 2008

CARMAKER BMW AG reported today that sales fell 5 percent in 2008 as the global economic crisis hit demand, but said it would post "clearly positive" earnings for the year.

Munich-based BMW's sales dropped to €53.2 billion (US$68 billion) from €56 billion a year earlier.

"Unsurprisingly, in the face of difficult business conditions in 2008, the BMW group was not able to match the previous year's record sales volume figure," the company said in a statement.

However, it said that "the BMW Group will be reporting clearly positive group earnings for the financial year 2008." The company will announce earnings on March 18.

Shares of BMW rose 6.2 percent to €20.80 in Frankfurt morning trading.

Sales at BMW's automobile segment fell more than 9 percent from the previous year to €49 billion, BMW said.

Its motorcycles segment saw sales increase slightly to €1.2 billion. The remaining sales were generated by divisions such as the company's financial services business.

The company said it sold 1.43 million BMW, Mini and Rolls Royce brand vehicles in 2008, down from 1.5 million in 2007.

Sales of BMW brand cars were down 5.8 percent, falling to 1.2 million cars in 2008 from the previous year's 1.3 million.

The company sold 4.3 percent more Minis, or 232,425 cars, while Rolls Royce sales rose 20 percent to 1,212.

BMW said the U.S. remained its largest market, even though its car sales fell by almost 10 percent to 303,639. BMW brand sales in the US dropped 15.2 percent to 249,113, while Mini sales soared 29 percent to 54,077.

The company said its home market of Germany remains its second largest -- with 284,353 cars sold in 2008, a decline of just 0.1 percent.

BMW said it reduced its work force by about 7,500 to 100,041 over the course of 2008.

About 4,000 voluntary contract termination agreements had been signed by the end of December as the company attempted to scale down production to adjust to lower demand.


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