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Chinese sales lift BMW s profit
Chinese sales lift BMW's profit

Strong sales in China have helped Germany's BMW overcome weak markets in crisis-ridden Europe.

Net profit rose 16 per cent in the third quarter to 1.29 billion euros ($A1.61 billion) on a 13.7 per cent jump in sales to a record 18.82 billion euros.

The Munich-based carmaker said overnight it was sticking to its forecasts for 2012 sales and earnings to be up on the previous year despite "an increasingly uncertain market environment."

CEO Norbert Reithofer called it a "good third quarter" but added that in the fourth quarter the company and the car sector as a whole "are likely to be confronted with adverse business conditions."

Booming Asian sales helped the company overcome a stagnant market in Europe. China sales rose 30 per cent, while European sales grew by a modest 2.6 per cent as sales sagged in southern Europe where the debt crisis is at its worst. Sales were even down slightly, by 0.5 per cent, in BMW's home market of Germany.

Having a strong presence in three key regions - Asia and the United States as well as Europe - has helped insulate BMW from the tough European car market. Many countries, including Spain and Italy, are in recession, while unemployment across the 17-country eurozone has risen to a record 11.6 per cent. Figures next week are widely expected to show that the eurozone as a whole is back in recession.

The associated slack demand has forced mass-market carmakers such as Ford to close plants, and others like General Motors' Opel to look at cutting capacity.

BMW, however, focuses on the more recession-resistant luxury end of the market, where profits per vehicle are higher. The company said its third quarter profits were helped by a strong model mix - meaning sales are up in the more profitable parts of its model range. For the first nine months of the year, sales of its X3 4WD, produced in Spartanburg, South Carolina, rose 28.7 per cent while those for its 5-series larger sedan increased by 5.3 per cent.