MUNICH (Reuters) - BMW (BMWG.DE), the world's largest premium auto maker, on Tuesday forecast it would reach its long-term sales target four years earlier than planned, presenting rival Audi with a bigger challenge if it hopes to catch up with the Munich-based company.
BMW Group on Tuesday said sales would surpass the 2 million vehicle mark in 2016, including its Mini and Rolls-Royce brands, without profitability suffering as a result.
"We are targeting new record highs in vehicle sales and pre-tax earnings for 2012," Chief Executive Norbert Reithofer told reporters at the group's annual news conference in Munich.
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In order to accelerate growth, BMW aims to expand its reach further into emerging economies, coining the term "BRIKT" markets for Brazil, Russia, India, South Korea and Turkey.
BMW does not even include China among the list, since it already sells more cars there than in any other country except the United States and Germany.
"2012 will be a decisive year for the further internationalisation of the BMW Group," Reithofer said.
"We are increasing our production capacity in China, the USA, South Africa and India, while at the same time evaluating potential production locations in the BRIKT markets."
BMW reaffirmed its core car business would achieve an operating profit margin of between 8-10 percent sustainably going forward.
Reithofer said on Tuesday he expects Automobiles to finish 2012 at the upper end of this range, despite higher investments and expenditure to improve engine efficiency and expand its global manufacturing footprint.
Volkswagen's (VOWG_p.DE) Audi overtook stalwart Mercedes-Benz as the second largest premium brand by vehicle sales last year and has surpassed BMW in terms of profitability thanks to economies of scale it enjoys with its parent -- a luxury BMW does not have as an independent company.
(Reporting by Christiaan Hetzner; Editing by Hans-Juergen Peters)