LONDON Rolls-Royce Motor Cars reported record car sales in 2012 as demand for its traditional luxury vehicles held up among wealthy Americans and Chinese, although its growth rate slowed down significantly from the previous two years.
Rolls, owned by German carmaker BMW (BMWG.DE), said on Thursday that car sales rose 1 percent to 3,575 in 2012 from 3,538 cars a year earlier.
It was the company's third consecutive year of record sales, but the growth rate was well below the 31 percent and 150 percent growth delivered in 2011 and 2010 respectively.
The United States regained its position as Rolls' biggest single market in 2012, overtaking China. Mainland Europe, including Russia, was its third biggest market, followed by the Middle East and Asia Pacific.
"We had an outstanding year in spite of the challenges we faced, and Rolls-Royce now leads the ultra luxury market by some considerable margin," chief executive Torsten Muller-Otvos said.
The luxury car market has been largely unaffected by the economic downturn, helped by continued demand for premium vehicles from Asia's mega rich. Mass-market carmakers such as Ford (F.N) are cutting capacity and jobs because of a slowdown in demand.
Rolls said it had expanded into a number of new markets in 2012, including Latin America. It now has a presence in more than 40 international markets.
The firm, which sells most of its cars with some element of bespoke personalisation, is expected to launch a new two-door Ghost model this year and complete the expansion of its plant in Goodwood in southern England.
(Reporting by Rhys Jones, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)