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Audi takes second place in global luxury sales race

Limo scene: Audi attributes part of its success to the popularity of its latest A8 luxury limousine as it overtakes Mercedes as the world’s second most popular luxury car brand.

Benz falls behind as Audi, BMW storm ahead with double-digit first-half growth

General News logo15 Jul 2011

THE insatiable Chinese market, growing demand in countries like Brazil and India and global financial recovery is driving demand for luxury cars, with the big three German brands all showing healthy sales growth for the first half of this year.

Audi sold 42,419 more cars than Mercedes-Benz in the first half of 2011, toppling its Stuttgart-based adversary for the first time as sales surged 17.7 per cent compared with the same period last year, to 652,950 deliveries.

Arch-rival BMW managed to keep its lead over Audi by growing at the slightly quicker rate of 17.8 per cent, maintaining a buffer zone of almost 37,000 vehicles between it and the insurgent from Ingolstadt.

Mercedes – for which sales grew a comparatively modest 9.7 per cent – is demoted to third position in the global luxury car sales race, having delivered 610,531 vehicles world-wide. The brand nevertheless remains optimistic about achieving an all-time sales record of 1.3 million units (including Smart cars) by the end of the year.

Despite its volume-selling 3 Series reaching runout, a record first half has prompted BMW to revise its full-year sales forecast up from 1.5 million units to 1.6 million across its BMW, Mini and Roll-Royce brands – combined sales of which are up 19.7 per cent compared with the first six months of 2010.

Healthy figures from the top three German luxury brands prove the global luxury car market to be in rude health, but smaller-volume niche manufacturers tell an even rosier story.

Porsche sales, which stand at 60,659 year-to-date are up a “better than expected” 36.8 per cent with growth in “almost every region” on the back of almost doubled demand for the Cayenne SUV and a sharp increase in sales of the Panamera sports sedan.

80 center imageFrom top: BMW X3, BMW 5 Series, Mini Countryman, Mercedes-Benz C-class.

VW-owned Bentley recorded a 20 per cent leap in sales to 2978 and Rolls-Royce is celebrating its best start to the year since it was re-launched under BMW stewardship, with 1592 examples finding homes around the world – signifying a 64.1 per cent increase.

BMW’s Mini sub-brand scored 141,913 sales, up 29.8 per cent and demand for Daimler’s Smart city-car product line grew eight per cent, to 54,801 units.

About 15,000 more Audis have been sold in China so far this year than on the brand’s German home soil, meaning that one in five Audis produced are now sold in China.

The brand’s Chinese sales grew 28 per cent to 140,699 units, which Audi says makes it that country’s best-selling premium car brand.

Audi attributes its success to strong performance in Europe (up 13.5 per cent) plus the popularity of its A1 hatch, A8 limousine and SUV line-up, which has just been expanded to include the compact-sized Q3 crossover.

Member of the board of management for marketing and sales Peter Schwarzenbauer said, “We are also optimistic about the coming months. Even though the second half is traditionally weaker, we will be launching high-volume models specifically important to European markets, the new A6 Avant and the Audi Q3.”

The brand is now turning its attention to emerging markets like Brazil and India, where sales are up 47 per cent and 100.1 per cent respectively.

“In India, mobility is taking shape in the lower segments the premium market for larger vehicles is now growing continuously. We have decided to introduce our new Audi Q3 in India to support that development,” said Mr Schwarzenbauer.

Unlike Audi, Germany remains BMW’s largest market, followed by the US and China. Worldwide sales of the X3 SUV more than doubled to 53,522 units, with the 5 Series also leaping in popularity – by 91.3 per cent – to 158,562 sales.

BMW says it was the best start to the year ever for its Mini sub-brand, with the new Countryman accounting for more than 40,000 of the 141,913 cars sold.

As with Audi, the Brazilian and Indian markets showed explosive growth for the Munich-based company, up 69 per cent and 107.2 per cent respectively. Other big performers were Turkey (up 179.6 per cent), South Korea (up 71.9 per cent) and Russia, up 31.6 per cent).

Newly third-placed Benz had its best June ever and a record first half. Mercedes-Benz Cars executive vice president of sales and marketing Joachim Schmidt said: “The first half of the year went very well for Mercedes-Benz.

“We achieved double-digit increases in many markets, our products are in demand, and we succeeded in setting a new record.”

The new C-class range, now featuring a proper coupe variant, will be the company’s volume powerhouse and the new M Class SUV is now in production. “In the second half of 2011 we want to achieve further growth compared to last year,” said Dr Schmidt.

“We’re on the right track, and this year we have our sights set on achieving an all-time sales record by selling more than 1.3 million Mercedes-Benz passenger cars and Smart ForTwo.”

Mercedes made great inroads to the lucrative Chinese market, where sales grew 52.3 per cent to reach a record 92,174 units for the company. Dr Schmidt said the company is about to begin producing the GLK in China and hinted that Chinese production of the A- B- and C-class will commence from 2013.

“From 2013, we will gradually start with the local production of three of our new compact cars, thus establishing the conditions for continued dynamic growth of Mercedes-Benz in China. We expect to sell 300,000 units there in 2015,” he said.

Until then, Mercedes’ largest market remains Germany, although its Western European sales increased just 0.7 per cent compared with the double-digit growth achieved by Audi and BMW.

Mercedes-Benz recorded its best June in Russia and Brazil, where year-to-date sales are up 70.6 per cent and 34.7 per cent. Rapid growth was also experienced in Taiwan (up 45 per cent) and India (up 40.3 per cent).

For the full year of 2010 both Mercedes and Audi registered 15 per cent growth, with BMW slightly behind on 14.6 per cent. At that point Audi had sold 75,300 fewer cars than Benz and trailed BMW to the tune of 131,880 units.

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