BMW has announced lower profit and earnings in the first three months of the year. Pretax profit slid 4.6% and earnings were 812 million euros, compared with 851million for the same period last year.But the company again stressed that it expects this years’ earnings to roughly match its record result from 2004 and that helped reassure investors. The flat earnings for this year will come despite a predicted 9% increase in sales. BMW blames higher steel costs, the drop in the value of the dollar against the euro and increased competitive pressure. Finance chief Stefan Krause said that the launch onto the market of new products like the updated 3-Series led to an increase in sales and administration costs. And profits suffered due to fewer sales of the previous version of the top-selling 3-Series before the relaunch in March. BMW beat Daimler Chrysler’s Mercedes-Benz sales in the early part of the year, for the first time in a decade, and hopes to overtake it this year as the world’s best-selling luxury car maker.