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Mercedes-Benz tops BMW, Audi in 2018 global sales

Class act: The C-Class (below) was Mercedes-Benz’s best-selling model last year, with about 397,000 units sold worldwide, followed by the E-Class (left) and its record-breaking 355,000-plus sales.

Strong C-Class, E-Class sales help Mercedes-Benz remain number-one premium brand

30 Jan 2019

MERCEDES-BENZ reasserted itself as the outright leader among premium brands in 2018, outselling key rivals BMW and Audi for the third consecutive year and taking its run of record annual sales to eight years.
In total, 2,310,185 Mercedes-Benz passenger cars, SUVs and LCVs were sold worldwide in 2018 – a slight 0.6 per cent improvement over 2017. This figure does not include vans, which fall under a different umbrella.
Nonetheless, BMW Group still claimed to be the “world’s leading premium automotive company in 2018”, with 2,490,664 units sold – its eighth consecutive annual sales record.
However, this total includes sales from BMW Group’s Motorrad motorcyles (165,556, +0.9%), Mini (361,531, -2.8%) and Rolls-Royce (4107, +22.2%) brands.
For reference, if Mercedes-Benz were to include sales of its Smart brand (128,802 units, -4.6%) in its tally, it would still fall short of BMW Group’s result by 51,677 units, or be ahead by 113,879 units if the Motorrad motorcycles were disregarded.
Either way, 1,959,460 BMW-branded passenger cars and SUVs found homes last year, up 1.8 per cent – the highest rate of growth achieved among the big three.
Conversely, the 1,812,500 Audi passenger cars and SUVs sold in 2018 represented a 3.5 per cent decrease, which the German company said came “in the wake of a difficult environment … coinciding with the switch to the new WLTP test cycle”.
Nonetheless, Audi won the closely contested battle in the world’s largest market, China, with its 663,049 sales (+10.9%) enough to outpace Mercedes-Benz (652,996, +11.1%) and BMW (639,953, +7.7%).
In Europe, a steady BMW (1,097,654 units, -0.3%) comfortably staved off the challenge of Mercedes-Benz (933,697, -2.3%) and Audi (743,600, -13.6%), with native Germany contributing a significant 29.1, 32.5 and 35.0 per cent of sales respectively.
Similarly, BMW (354,698 units, +0.5%) took top honours in the US market, ahead of a struggling Mercedes-Benz (315,959, -6.3%) and Audi (223,323, -1.4%).
In the battle of the sub-brands, Mercedes-AMG’s sales were down by 10.4 per cent, to 118,204 units, but still exceeded BMW M’s volume, which grew by a massive 27.2 per cent, to 102,780 units. Data for Audi Sport has not been released yet.
BMW M’s growth was underpinned by the top-selling X3 M40i mid-size SUV (19,670 units), M2 sportscar (13,731) and M5 large sedan (7823).
Model-wise, SUVs continued to grow in popularity, accounting for 35.5 and 40.4 per cent of Mercedes-Benz (820,721 units, +1.9%) and BMW (792,590, +12.1%) sales respectively. Data for Audi SUVs is currently unavailable.
Specifically, the C-Class mid-size car was Mercedes-Benz’s best-selling model last year, with about 397,000 units sold, followed by the E-Class large car’s record-breaking 355,000-plus sales. The mid-size GLC and small-size GLA were its highest-volume SUVs.
The S-Class upper-large sedan surprised on 77,927 sales (+12.2%), with record-breaking sales of ultra-luxurious Mercedes-Maybach versions up 21.8 per cent, but only 14,000-plus examples of the X-Class ute found homes after its V6 engine became available mid-year.
The 5 Series large car was a significant growth driver for BMW in 2018 – its seventh-generation model’s first full year on sale – with its volume up 12.7 per cent, to 328,997 units, of which 40,260, or 12.2 per cent, were 530e plug-in hybrids.
BMW’s only battery-electric vehicle, the i3 tallboy hatch, achieved its fifth consecutive annual sales record, with 34,829 examples delivered (+10.6%).

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