A strong fourth-quarter run was enough to ensure the BMW Group recorded its best year in the region and, just as important, retained the tag of being the leader in the premium car category. Of the 18,657 BMWs and Minis sold in these markets during 2011, buyers in the UAE accounted for 47 per cent.
The fourth quarter was the most successful in terms of units sold regionally with nearly 5,000 vehicles.
Within the model line-up, the pricey 7-Series was the bestseller in terms of volumes, which was enough to push the region into the third spot globally.
For the Mini, 1,100 were sold in the region last year, again enough for its best yearly showing to date.
"Lots of people said 2011 would develop as a difficult year for the auto industry [in the region]," said Dr Joerg Breuer, the regional managing director.
"Seeing some of the challenges in the region, yes, it was not an easy year. Even then it was the most successful BMW has experienced from a 9 per cent growth on 2010."
Its results and those of some of the other carmakers suggest that automotive was one of the best-performing categories in the broader Middle East retail space. Dealerships are not ruling out a repeat performance this year. As for BMW, "assuming the (regional) economy remains stable, we are expecting another year of growth," said Breuer. "Double-digit might be possible… but the world is so volatile."
To keep the volumes going, there will be the launch of the new 3-Series in February. "It's one of the models we are banking on," he added.
At the other end of the pricing spectrum, there will be the introduction of the 6-Series Coupe by mid-year. On the Mini side, there will be the entry of the Roadster. On the network side, the group expects to add to its presence in Iraq. "The situation in the southern and central areas is clearer and that's where we see a further expansion in the network," said Breuer.
"The [non-GCC] markets have developed nicely — in Jordan we appointed a new importer who is gaining ground and in Iraq it's been enjoyable since we opened the first facility last year.
"While the growth in Jordan has come from extremely low levels — and Iraq did not have an importer before — we are catching up and both countries met our expectations for last year."
From an outsider's perspective, one market where the brand could have done more remains Saudi Arabia. However, Breuer does not share the sentiment.
"There was growth [up 2 per cent over 2010 for more than 3,000 units sold] in Saudi Arabia and BMW is the market leader in the core premium segment," he said.
"As to why we are not seeing a similar set of numbers there as in the UAE, it has to do with the economic structure of the kingdom.
"There were some markets in the Levant that offered challenges in 2011, but on the other side we had markets like the UAE where sales grew by 23 per cent."
For 2012, the UAE could again account for around half of the new car volumes.
The BMW Group's Middle East growth closely shadowed what the carmaker was able to achieve globally in 2011.
The overall tally of 1.668 million units - including the Mini and Rolls-Royce numbers — came through from 14 per cent growth, while in the region sales were up 9 per cent.