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BERLIN — German automakers BMW and Volkswagen on Wednesday reported record sales for the first quarter, continuing an export-driven surge that contrasts with Europe’s chronic debt woes and slack economy.

Luxury-maker BMW AG said its worldwide sales were fueled by rising deliveries in China and the United States. It said January-March deliveries by the BMW Group - which also includes the Mini and Rolls-Royce brands - were 11.2 percent higher than a year earlier at 425,528 vehicles.

First-quarter sales in the U.S. were up 16.6 percent at 75,829 cars while deliveries in China rose 36.8 percent to 80,014.

BMW said it also saw its best-ever monthly sales in March - selling a total of 185,728 cars, a year-on-year increase of 12 percent. BMW is due to release first-quarter earnings figures May 3.

Volkswagen AG sold 1.36 million vehicles, an increase of 10.5 percent, as a difficult European market was outweighed by strong gains in North American and Asia.

Sales fell by 3.7 percent in Western Europe outside Germany, but rose 13.7 percent in the Asia-Pacific region and 27.6 percent in North America, to 135,700 vehicles.


Nokia lowers 2012 outlook

HELSINKI — Nokia Corp. says heavy competition will hit first-quarter performance especially in developing markets and that it expects no improvement in the second quarter.

The phone-maker cites multiple factors for hitting sales of cellphones, including in the smartphone sector, “particularly in India, the Middle East and Africa and China.”

The Finnish company said Wednesday that operating margin in the first quarter 2012 was “approximately negative 3 percent, compared to the previously expected range of ‘around break-even, ranging either above or below by approximately 2 percentage points.’ “

Nokia said that second-quarter performance would not improve from the first quarter.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports