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BMW disappointed at scrappage scheme's structure

Wednesday's announcement that BMW is to be the automotive partner to the 2012 London Olympics was an "unforgettable experience at the end of a very tough year", said Tim Abbott, managing director of BMW UK.

He told the company's annual press dinner: "There has been enormous pressure in the market place and the BMW Group has weathered the storm in the UK. Tim Abbott

"But it has been a game of two halves. Obviously the scrappage scheme has clouded the picture in recent months and I must say we were rather disappointed with its structure.

"While support for the industry is welcome, there was a real opportunity here to link the financial support to encourage the purchase of more fuel efficient, lower emitting cars. Other markets did this and I really feel this was an opportunity missed."

Abbott said that after a slow start to the year, BMW UK has seen "substantially better" results in the past three months with healthy growth over last year.

"With both BMW and MINI we are confident of finishing clear leaders over our premium competitors in terms of sales," he added.

Ian Robertson, member of the main BMW board in Munich responsible for sales and marketing, said that the German manufacturer had been able to weather the economic storm thanks to decisive actions at the end of last year.

He told the dinner: "A year ago we took a look at the situation and decided we had to take production down and that was the right thing to do. It has shaped the way we have done business in 2009.

"BMW has concentrated on the markets which are still growing" - the so-called BRIC markets of Brazil, Russia, India and China - "all with the exception of Russia, have continued to show significant sales growth. Our sales in China were up 80 per cent last month over the same month a year ago. Support for BMW in the rest of the world has been strong although sales are down."

Robertson said that more than 1.5 million Minis have now been built at the company's Oxford plant in nine years of production and after volume reductions earlier in the year, the brand is now significantly ahead again.

"Rolls Royce has been affected by falling luxury cars sales globally but we have been able to complete our preparations for the new Ghost" - dubbed the baby Rolls - "and deliveries to customers will start early next year. The order book for this model now extends into the middle of 2010.

"Importantly the BMW Group has remained in profit this year thanks to the decisive actions we took. Most analysts say there will be gentle growth in 2010 and we concur, although market conditions country by country will be different."

Robertson said he was also very excited about the new 5-series which will be introduced early next year.

First pictures will be released by the company early next week and Robertson described the car as the "best-designed, most good looking BMW has ever done."

The company will also launch its Mini SUV as well as hybrid versions of the X6 crossover vehicle and the 7 Series.

Robertson also said that the field trials of the electric MINI will also roll out globally with around 500 vehicles being trialed by potential customers.

This is part of a research programme that will lead to BMW's Megacity car which he said will be launched "in the first half of the next decade, and that decade is only five weeks away".

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