BMW of North America

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Global net income: $1.8 billion for the first nine months of 2003, down 10.1% from the same period a year ago.

U.S. ad budget: $90 million for first eight months of 2003, up 21.6%.

BMW of North America continues to think outside the box to maximize ad dollars even as the marketer of the "Ultimate Driving Machine" tries to talk to prospects individually.

The automaker asked owners and prospects to write why they were "the Ultimate Driver" and should win a trip to a famous German racetrack. The move was part of the launch of BMW's fifth-generation 5 Series and reached an estimated 500,000 people.

BMW's marketing budget isn't as high as its closest competitor. Consider: BMW spent $68.5 million in first half of 2003, while Toyota Motor Sales USA's Lexus brand shelled out $134 million, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. Yet through October, BMW sales are behind luxury-leader Lexus by just 10,417 units, according to Automotive News. In BMW's rear-view mirror is Mercedes-Benz USA, 19,337 units behind BMW through October.

The U.S. was BMW's strongest market through October, ahead of Germany. It delivered more than 226,800 BMW and Mini Cooper branded vehicles to American drivers, up nearly 10% over the same period in 2002. North American sales for October alone hit a record, passing 22,600 and up by more than 15% from a year earlier.

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