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X-series SUVs and crossovers help push BMW earnings higher

FRANKFURT – German luxury carmaker BMW increased its profits in the first quarter thanks to strong demand for its expensive SUVs and higher sales in the U.S. and Britain as well as in a recovering European market.

Net profit rose 4 per cent compared with the same period last year, to 1.515 billion euros ($1.70 billion), the company said Wednesday.

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 per cent in Britain and 13 per cent in the United States during the quarter. Sales grew 10 per cent in Europe; the auto market there continues to recover as the countries that use the euro currency slowly heal from their crisis over too much government and bank debt.

The X-series of SUVs and SUV-like crossovers, pricey vehicles that generate strong profit margins, continued to boost earnings as many customers in the U.S. move up to more expensive cars. The X-5 sport-utility made in Spartanburg, South Carolina, saw sales rise 30 per cent compared with the year-ago period.

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

Revenues rose 15 per cent to 20.917 billion euros.

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