FRANKFURT -- BMW continued to generate strong global growth last month as it seeks to maintain its title as the world's top-selling premium brand, ahead of rivals Audi and Mercedes-Benz. In January, sales of the company's core brand rose 5.9 percent to 96,183 units.
The rise puts BMW ahead of Mercedes, whose sales grew 5.1 percent to 86,921 last month. Audi has yet to announce sales for January.
"We expect the positive trend in sales to continue over the coming months. In fact, we anticipate even more dynamic growth in the second half of the year in light of the launch of additional new models," BMW's head of sales Ian Robertson said in a statement Wednesday.
BMW will launch a new version of its best-selling 3-series model later this month.
Overall sales of BMW Group vehicles including the Mini and Rolls-Royce brands grew 6.6 percent in the first month of the year to 112,163 units.
Sales of BMW's X1-, X3- and X5-series SUVs helped lift monthly deliveries for the automaker. Sales of the revamped X3 SUV rose 56.2 percent to 9,348 units in January, while the company's small X1 model, sold 7,445 cars in the same period, a rise of 5.6 percent. The brand's X5 model sold 8,872 units, a rise of 8.3 percent.
In January, the group's Mini brand sold 15,768 cars, a rise of 11.6 percent. Sales were boosted by the Countryman model, which rose 59 percent to 5,575 cars.
In the U.S., the company's biggest single market, the BMW Group reported sales of 19,739 vehicles in January, 5.8 percent more than a year earlier.
In China, sales jumped 30.5 percent in the same period to 26,505 deliveries.
Despite a downturn in new-car sales across Europe, the BMW Group managed to boost sales last month in a number of regional markets including Italy, where registrations rose 12.4 percent to 5,445 and in France, where BMW sold 3,342 vehicles, 10.6 percent more than in 2011.
Last year, the BMW brand sold 1.38 million cars and SUVs, placing it ahead of Audi, which sold 1.3 million units. Mercedes reported brand sales of 1.26 million units in 2011.
Group sales at BMW, including the Mini and Rolls-Royce brands, rose 14 percent to 1.67 million vehicles last year.