Smooth handling

  @FortuneMagazine December 5, 2013: 6:54 AM ET
WMA23 bmw

World's Most Admired Companies Rank: 14
Headquarters: Munich
Employees: 109,871
The business: Production of luxury automobiles and motorcycles

BMW has a singular goal: to produce quality cars that are fun to drive. It's a premium brand favored by wealthy Chinese, but the company has also capitalized on its name, which transliterates to "Bao Ma," or "precious horse" in Mandarin. In the Chinese zodiac horses are symbols of grace, power, and strength. The German automaker has used its marketing power to boost Chinese sales even as headwinds buffeted Europe. Vehicle sales in China nearly doubled, from 168,998 sold in 2010 to 327,341 sold in 2012. The company reports it will set record sales worldwide in 2013, spurred by growth in Asia.

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