MUNICH -- BMW earned more money per car than ever before in its 95-year history, lifted by surging deliveries of the revamped 5-series sedan.
The automotive unit's first-quarter operating margin climbed to 11.9 percent from 2.7 percent a year earlier, the automaker said today. BMW made a profit of 4,462 euros per car on average, compared with 4,145 euros at Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz and 2,981 euros at Volkswagen AG's Audi.
BMW "seems like they're playing in a different league at this stage," said Arndt Ellinghorst, a London-based Credit Suisse analyst.
BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer is pushing BMW to boost profitability to guard the company's independence and fend off Audi, which aims to overtake BMW as the luxury-car leader by 2015. The maker of BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce cars has exited the Formula One race circuit, cut staff and reduced spending on components and supplies by more than 4 billion euros since 2008.
BMW reported first-quarter profit that beat analysts' estimates on surging demand for the revamped 5-series and overhauled X3 sport-utility vehicle. China's growing economy and a rebound in spending in the U.S. are fueling record demand for luxury cars from BMW, Mercedes and Audi.
BMW's earnings before interest and taxes more than quadrupled to 1.9 billion euros ($2.81 billion), beating the 1.54 billion-euro average estimate of 14 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.
Sales of BMW's 5 series more than doubled to 85,400 vehicles and the X3's deliveries surged 94 percent to 22,700 SUVs, fueling a 21 percent advance in demand to 382,800 autos in the first quarter.
"It's a fantastic result," Jose Asumendi, a London-based Royal Bank of Scotland analyst, said of BMW's earnings. "It's all driven by the autos. The flagship models are delivering."
Tougher second half
Second-half growth will likely slow because of tougher year-earlier comparisons, while introductions of models like an overhauled version of the 1 series and a new Mini coupe will add expenses, Chief Financial Officer Friedrich Eichiner said today on a conference call with reporters. BMW stuck to its target for an auto Ebit margin of more than 8 percent this year.