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Strong sales boost BMW profits

German car-maker BMW increased its profits in the first quarter thanks to strong demand for large vehicles and higher sales in the US and Britain as well as in a recovering European market.

Net profit rose 4% compared with the same period last year to 1.515 billion euro (£1.1 billion), the company said today.

Vehicle sales rose across all major markets for the world's top-selling maker of high-priced cars. The company saw especially big increases of 15% in Britain and 13% in the United States during the quarter.

Sales grew 10% in Europe; the car market there continues to recover as the countries that use the euro slowly heal from their crisis over too much government and bank debt.

The X-series of 4x4s and crossovers, pricey vehicles that generate strong profit margins, continued to boost earnings as many customers in the US move up to more expensive cars. The X-5 sport-utility made in Spartanburg, South Carolina, saw sales rise 30% compared with the same period of last year.

Significantly, Munich-based BMW said it maintained its high profit margin of 9.5%, near the upper end of its target range of 8-10%.

Revenues rose 15% to 20.917 billion euro (£15.5 billion).

BMW leads Volkswagen's Audi division and Daimler's Mercedes-Benz brand in the sales race among high-priced car makers. The company also makes Rolls-Royce and Mini cars.

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