It said demand tumbled in the fourth quarter, in common with the industry as a whole as the global financial crisis pushed key markets into recession. Sales of BMW’s three auto brands, which include Mini and Rolls-Royce, fell 9.4 percent to €48.8 billion while motorcycles edged up 0.2 percent to €1.2 billion.
Financial services, which have been a source of worry for the group, posted a strong increase of 12.8 percent to €15.7 billion however.
BMW said “business conditions for the automobile sector deteriorated sharply again in the fourth quarter of 2008.”
Later Friday, sales data for January confirmed that the slump did not end last year, with vehicle sales down 24 percent to 70,405 vehicles last month. Mini sales fell 35 percent in January after the company halted production of its popular convertible model pending the launch of a new version on March 28.
German rival Audi meanwhile said its sales slumped 29 percent in January to around 56,200 vehicles, with the downturn looking worse in part because the figure for January 2008 was boosted by the launch of a new version of its best-selling A4 model.
“This year won’t be easy for anyone but our strategy at Audi remains (to be on the) offensive,” Audi executive board member Peter Schwarzenbauer said in a statement, looking ahead to the launch of six new models in the first half.
“Current market conditions remain extremely challenging,” BMW executive board member Ian Robertson said in a company statement.
Robertson nonetheless expected BMW to profit from a broad-based plan to improve the fuel-efficiency of its cars as more European countries adopted measures aimed at fighting greenhouse emissions.
Investors were encouraged by the full-year sales figures and BMW shares shot up 9.44 percent to €21.44 in afternoon trade while the wider market was up 1.35 percent overall.
The group confirmed that 2008 full-year earnings would be solidly in the black when it releases detailed figures on March 18. BMW has already said that total production came to 1.44 million vehicles in 2008, down 4.3 percent.
Like its rivals, the company has been hit by a global slump in auto sales, especially in the United States, its main market.