Of particular significance was BMW’s revelation that sales in China have overtaken those in the US for the first ever, rising by 37% to 80,000. This makes China the world’s biggest market for luxury motors. That may have been a long time coming, but it’s telling that the Asian powerhouse can now see the US receding in its wing-mirrors.
Still, the real poke will be felt closer to home: BMW is also setting new records for sales of its Mini and Rolls-Royce marques – both of which are manufactured here. Mini sales rose 12.1% in the three months to 68,000, with particularly strong demand for the Mini Countryman, sales of which grew 37% to 22,000. First-quarter sales at Rolls-Royce, meanwhile, rose from 723 cars to 770.
It seems wildly counter-intuitive, given the bumpy road of the economy at the moment, but is this shaping up to be a stellar year for the country's automotive sector? April’s certainly proving a bumper month: first Jaguar Land Rover announced UK production of the F-Type, then Nissan revealed plans to produce its new hatchback in Sunderland, having already announced its new Innovation model there too. Nissan’s advances alone should create 3,000 much-needed jobs here.
And now Mini and Rolls come zooming along looking all shiny too. The brands had already posted record sales last year, with Mini’s increasing 22% to 285,060 units, and now BMW says it expects new records to be set throughout 2012 – thanks to strong demand for luxury cars in the West and rapidly expanding markets in emerging economies too. Now we just need to sell the Chinese on the merits of Nissan hatchbacks and we’ll be laughing…