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Market Insight: Prestige holds high during crises

Bucking trends: Audi (left) and BMW (below) both recorded slight sales increases in 2020, going against the grain of a COVID-affected market.

Germans shine as consumers pitch for quality, while sedans plunge from grace


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25 Jan 2021

ALWAYS the benchmark for the prestige and luxury market, German car-makers have scored well in 2020 despite being knocked by erratic supply and the sales constraints of COVID-19.


Audi did not have its best month in December but it came out of the 2020 year in positive territory and boasted huge increases in sales of its new-gen Q3 that found 4090 owners in the year and made it the most popular of the brand’s models.


Its sales for the year were up 1.0 per cent on 2019 at 15,868 units, despite a 10.1 per cent decline in the month of December compared with the same month a year earlier.


The A6 also fared well with a year-to-date increase of 117.2 per cent and a stronger December that was up 7.4 per cent on the same month in 2019. Sales for the A6 were comparatively low, with 215 for the year.


A decade ago Audi finished 2010 with 12,900 sales, a 14.1 per cent rise on 2009 that was a pivotal year for the economy because of the global financial crisis (GFC). In 2010, the A4 was its best seller with 3433 units for the year, followed by the Q5 (2341).


To show how times have changed and graphically illustrating the demise of the sedan genre, the A4 in 2020 sold only 783 units – just 23 per cent of the sales achieved 10 years earlier.


BMW sales for 2020 are up 0.9 per cent for the 12 months but the brand had a busy December with growth of 28.9 per cent.


Sales for the year were 23,520 units, lead by the X3 at 4360 units which was up 72.1 per cent for December (compared with the same month in 2019) and down 4.9 per cent year-on-year.


The X3 was followed by the 3 Series – which shows that not all sedans are headed for the scrap heap – at 3406 units, up 8.6 per cent year-to-date but a slip of 1.0 per cent in the month (with 302 cars sold) compared with December in 2019.


The X1 filled out BMW’s top-three best-sellers for 2020 with 3060 new owners, up 7.5 per cent for the year and down 19.7 per cent for December. The month sold 208 units.


In 2020, BMW sold 17,993 units in a healthy market post-GFC. Despite the 10 intervening years, BMW added a relatively modest 5527 annual sales for 2020.


Total vehicle sales in the same period fell by 118,606, from almost 1.04 million to around 920,000.


BMW Group Australia general manager of corporate communications Leanne Blanckenberg told GoAuto that the brand had led the premium segment in four months during the year.


“Our product launches ensured we maintained our position as having the youngest portfolio in the segment and with the widest selection of variants and powertrains,” she said.


“We supported the product offensive with numerous new business initiatives. The positive results reflected these new efforts of our staff and dealer network.


“We also took the sales journey online, starting with the Mini Electric Hatch reservation tool, and in mid-2020 BMW Shop was launched which enables customers to reserve their vehicle online prior to delivery and handover.


“BMW Shop has since expanded with a stock locator and will carry a number of new BMW models and elements through 2021.”


BMW will launch two full EVs this year, the iX3 and iX, and for the BMW M brand, the sixth-generation M3 and M4 Competition models.


“Australia is one of the world’s leading markets for BMW M with one in five BMWs sold here wearing an M badge,” she said.


Other new models on the way are the X5 M and X6 M Competition First Edition (first quarter); X7 Dark Shadow Edition (first quarter); 4 Series Convertible (first quarter); and the M3 and M4 Competition xDrive (fourth quarter).


Mercedes-Benz sales for 2020 were the weakest of the three main German brands, with the year ending on 29,455 sales, down 7.9 per cent on the previous year and the only brand to show negative territory.


However, it was the top seller of the three, eclipsing second-placed BMW by almost 6000 units. Mercedes sales for passenger vehicles are separate to its van and (since ceased) X-Class utes.


Mercedes was down for the year but stronger in December with a 5.2 per cent increase on the same month in the previous year.


Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific media relations and product communications manager Ryan Lewis told GoAuto that new models played a part in the sales performance during the year.


These new entrants included the GLA, GLB and GLS range of SUVs, an updated E-Class and new variants of the A-Class, CLA and GLE.


Core models including the C-Class and GLC also continued strong customer reception.


For the 2021 year, Mr Lewis said the brand will launch its all-new S-Class in March with the first variant being the S450.


“Other highlights for 2021 will be the phenomenal Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series landing around April, the all-electric EQA in the middle of the year followed by the GLS Maybach in Q3,” he said.


Porsche kicked its German mates out of the water in 2020 with a 48.9 per cent rise in sales for December compared with the same month in 2019, and a 2.0 per cent lift for the year compared with 2019.


It sold 4243 units in 2020, almost four times its performance a decade ago when it cleared 1266 new cars – itself a modest figure but still up 23.5 per cent on 2009.


The SUV models dominate the sales with an 83.5 per cent share of the brand’s products. There were 3543 units of the Cayenne, Cayenne Coupe and Macan finding buyers in 2020, with Macan being the most popular at 2158 sales.


Ten years ago Porsche finished 2010 with the Cayenne SUV selling 598 units – almost half the brand’s total – followed by the 911. It had five models then, with seven models available in 2020.


Porsche Cars Australia told GoAuto that demand exceeded supply on many of its models in 2020 with factors including consumers putting international travel on hold leading to “many deciding to buy a new car, perhaps bring forward a purchase or upgrade what they intended to buy.”


PCA head of public relations Chris Jordan said that with holidays limited to domestic travel, road trip holidays had become “extremely popular at present.”


“The pleasure of the drive and the ability to travel in your own personal space are factors driving this,” he said.


Porsche said new models planned for 2021 included Panamera, 911 Turbo and 911 Targa in January; Taycan (February); PDK availability starts on 718 GTS 4.0, 718 Cayman GT4 and 718 Spyder (March); and the launch of the 718 Boxster 25 Year edition in April.

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