BMW CEO says company plans to increase U.S. production to 200,000 cars within three years

Automaker BMW AG hopes to increase the number of cars it builds in the United States to more than 200,000 annually by 2010, Chief Executive Norbert Reithofer said Thursday.

Speaking to analysts at BMW's headquarters in Munich, Reithofer said the aim was to reduce the company's exposure to the weaker dollar, a paramount move given that the U.S. remains BMW's top single market.

"We also have to buy more goods (in North America) to improve our natural hedging," Reithofer said.

The euro has been running strong and steady against the U.S. dollar, up more than 14 percent in recent months. On Thursday, the 13-nation euro bought US$1.3205 in late morning European trading, down from US$1.3227 in New York late Wednesday.

BMW's annual production capacity at its U.S. plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, is currently around 140,000 vehicles.

BMW's new X6 model will be produced in Spartanburg from 2008 onward as part of the company's effort to increase capacity in the United States.

This week, the automaker said it expects pretax profit this year to rise above the EUR4.12 billion (US$5.43 billion) it posted in 2006 on the expectations of increased auto sales, reports AP.

The company also reported a 28 percent gain in net profit to 2.87 billion euros ($3.79 billion (EUR2.87 billion) ) thanks to a one-time gain from the sale of a stake in British aircraft engine maker Rolls-Royce PLC.

Shares of BMW were up1.4 percent to EUR41.09 (US$54.17) in Frankfurt trading.

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