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News - VFACTS - Sales 2004

BMW, Mercedes in right royal spat over sales

Sales race: According to VFACTS, Mercedes-Benz sold more passenger cars than BMW in 2004.

Mercedes-Benz loses luxury crown to BMW, depending how you score it

VFACTS logo31 Jan 2005

THE 2004 automotive sales race may be over, but traditional luxury market combatants BMW and Mercedes-Benz remain locked in a tussle over which brand actually won.

In a January 6 press release titled “BMW: Number 1 for Luxury Sales”, BMW announced its “all premium focus” had made it “the clear luxury market leader in 2004”.

Not to be outdone, later the same day Mercedes-Benz fired back with a press release titled “Mercedes-Benz Leads Luxury Car Sales”, leaving many in the industry – not to mention the public – confused.

GoAuto can report that BMW did indeed sell more luxury vehicles than Mercedes-Benz in Australia in 2004, reclaiming the title it lost to the Stuttgart brand in 2002 and 2003.

But it did not achieve, as claimed, “leadership of the Australian imported luxury car market by a clear margin”. Not if you count SUVs as cars, anyway.

For the record, according to official vehicle sales statistician VFACTS, Mercedes-Benz sold more passenger cars than BMW in 2004 – 11,489 (down from 12,632 in 2003) to 10,807 (up from 10,467).

Throw in 4053 BMW SUVs (up from 2506 in 2003) and 1226 Mercedes-Benz SUVs (down from 1628) and the contest goes BMW’s way – 14,860 to 12,715.

But the contest goes Benz’s way again if you include the 2270 non-luxury light trucks (like Vito and MB Series) it sold, plus a significant 2504 heavy trucks (like Sprinter, 7.5 and 15-tonners), which give it a total of 17,489 vehicle sales in 2004 (down from 18,988 in 2003) or a lead of 2629 over BMW, which doesn’t build trucks. Unless you count SUVs as trucks.

Just to extend arguments a little further:
  • BMW Group sold more Mini models (1499 sales in 2004, down from 1633 in 2003) than Daimler Chrysler sold Smart cars (479 in 2004 versus 255 in 2003 – up 85 per cent).

  • BMW-owned Rolls-Royce racked up eight sales to the DC-owned Maybach brand’s five to claim super-limo honours.

  • DaimlerChrysler’s heavy truck brands are booming with Sterling sales up 47.5 per cent and Freightliner sales up 30 per cent.

Of course, both brands have valid reasons for their respective successes or failures, with BMW claiming mid-year supply constraints for Mini amid a rush of all-new models including 1 Series, 6 Series and X3, and Mercedes-Benz blaming the aged A-class and M-class models (24 per cent down in sales) for its downturn.

While Benz will make new A and M-class models available this year, its volume selling C-class was also roundly defeated by its BMW rival in 2004, despite a facelifted version being offered in September.

BMW is expected to move even further ahead in total luxury vehicle terms this year, with an all-new 3 Series and 5 Series Touring, plus M5, M6 and entry level 118i variants all due on sale.

Winners and losers:

HOLDEN’S Commodore was Australia’s top-selling car for the ninth consecutive year in 2004. Holden sold 178,027 vehicles in 2004 (down marginally from a record of 178,392 in 2002) and claimed the light commercial vehicle crown (up 27%), but reduced its market share to 18.6% to be second behind Toyota (201,737 sales, 21.1%).

FORD’S 2004 sales result (135,172) was its best since 1995 and gave the Blue Oval 0.3 points of market share growth, to now hold 14.2% in third overall. Some 13,583 sales in December made territory Australia’s top-selling SUV for six months running. Of 101,279 locally-made vehicles (the most in Ford Australia’s history), 65,384 were Falcons, while Focus (12,565) and Courier (7077) claimed sales records.

NISSAN locked up fourth place overall and number one vehicle importer with 63,654 sales, 6600 ahead of former number four Mitsubishi. Thanks largely to its X-Trail, Patrol, Navara and Pathfinder off-road range, Nissan grew 8.7% in an overall market up 5%, claiming a 6.7% market share – its largest for 13 years.

IF fifth-placed MITSUBISHI had any positives in a year that saw its sales volume drop from 70,171 in 2003 to 53,704 last year, it was that its 16,467 vehicle decline was less than the deliberate loss of 5000 fleet sales combined with at least 12,000 sales of the discontinued Lancer coupe and Mirage hatch. Meaning things could have been worse.

MAZDA was another to claim records in 2004, with 55,560 sales representing a 102% jump since 2000. B-Series posted its best year on record, Mazda3 delivered the company its best-ever small car sales and Mazda claims it is the top-selling full-line passenger car importer.

HYUNDAI surged a big 37.5% in 2004 after selling 42,510 vehicles and tightening its grip on seventh place ahead of Honda. With no commercial vehicles in its line-up, Hyundai now claims to be Australia’s top-selling “pure passenger vehicle import brand”, having claimed the fifth-largest share of passenger car sales from Mitsubishi (6.4%).

HONDA posted its second overall sales record in as many years in 2004, with 36,474 vehicles beating its 2003 record by 5657 units. Honda’s prestige segment-winning Accord and strong sales of Jazz, CR-V and the new Odyssey helped the brand gain a 3.8% market share (up from 3.4%) and eighth overall.

SUBARU also posted a new annual sales record, with 33,619 vehicles being 12.7% up on 2003. The 3790-unit increase, thanks to record sales of Forester, Impreza and Outback, is the brand’s biggest surge since 1999 and Subaru now holds a record 3.52% overall market share for ninth overall.

KIA has claimed to be Australia’s fastest growing brand for two years running after selling 41.9% more cars than in 2003 (which was a 40.8% increase on 2002). Firmly entrenched in 10th place overall, Kia’s 2004 result came courtesy of Carnival, Pregio, K2700 and Rio.

The CHRYSLER JEEP Jeep brand gave parent company DaimlerChrysler more to crow about by returning 6669 sales (up 271 vehicles or 4.2%) in 2004 – the best result under DC management. Chrysler was up 7.8% thanks largely to PT Cruiser (up 11.2%) and Crossfire, while Jeep’s Wrangler (up 25%) and Cherokee (up 16.5%) also made strides.

MASERATI sales jumped in Australia by 55% last year, when the Italian brand sold a record 93 vehicles. Growing from just nine vehicle sales in 1998, the Australian Maserati importer again posted the highest market share globally, thanks in large part to the new Quattroporte.

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