Deliveries of the namesake BMW brand rose 12 percent to a record 1.54 million cars and sport-utility vehicles last year, the Munich-based manufacturer said today in a statement. That compares with growth of 12 percent to 1.46 million at Volkswagen AG (VOW)’s Audi and 4.7 percent to 1.32 million at Mercedes.
Even with the debt crisis depressing sales in Europe, Germany’s luxury-car makers have maintained growth by tapping demand in the U.S. and China. Total deliveries for the world’s top three upscale brands are forecast to increase in 2013, while mass-market competitors in Europe are bracing for the sixth straight year of weaker sales.
“We enter the new year with positive momentum,” Ian Robertson, BMW’s sales chief, said in the statement. “Despite the prevailing headwinds in some markets, we aim to achieve another record year in sales in 2013.”
BMW’s deliveries will probably rise 4.6 percent to 1.58 million vehicles this year, according to IHS Automotive, allowing it to defend the top spot, which both Mercedes and Audi have vowed to take by the end of the decade. Audi’s sales may stagnate, while Mercedes closes in on the No. 2 ranking with a 6.7 percent gain to 1.44 million cars, according to IHS.
“This year will probably be a tick better for the premium carmakers,” driven by the U.S. and China, said Sascha Gommel, a Frankfurt-based analyst at Commerzbank AG. “BMW is at the peak of its product cycle, and Mercedes will start catching up as it refreshes its lineup.”
BMW rose as much 2 percent to 73.59 euros and was trading up 1.9 percent as of 1:38 p.m. in Frankfurt in the first gain in four days. The stock has climbed 25 percent in the past 12 months, valuing the company at 46.9 billion euros. VW shares increased 0.9 percent, while Daimler rose 1 percent.
Growth at Mercedes trailed its German rivals last year chiefly because of a sluggish increase in China, where sales last year edged up 1.5 percent after a 19 percent drop in December. Deliveries by BMW and Audi advanced more than 29 percent in China in 2012.
To revive growth in the world’s largest car market, Stuttgart-based Daimler is combining two separate sales units -- one for imported vehicles and the other for locally made cars -- into a single entity.
BMW’s sales last year were led by a 29 percent surge in demand for the 1-Series compact and a 22 percent jump for the new generation 3-Series sedan. Including the Mini and Rolls- Royce nameplates, the carmaker’s total deliveries rose 11 percent to 1.85 million vehicles.
Deliveries at Ingolstadt-based Audi were paced by 78,700 European deliveries of the Q3 compact SUV in its first full year after the model was introduced in October 2011.
“In 2012, Audi achieved new record totals in every region worldwide, including Europe,” sales chief Luca de Meo said in a statement today. “We managed to buck the negative trend and continued to grow there.”
The VW unit is rolling out the new generation of the A3 compact this year and will add a sedan variant to broaden its appeal and compete with Mercedes’s new CLA and the coupe version of the BMW 1-Series. In addition to the CLA, Mercedes will refresh the E-Class sedan and overhaul the top-of-the-line S- Class this year.
BMW, which is targeting its third straight sales record in 2013, is introducing the 4-Series, a coupe based on the 3-Series line. It’s also introducing the Mini Paceman crossover coupe and the BMW i3, the carmaker’s first electric vehicle. BMW’s group deliveries have climbed 43 percent since 2009, according to company data.
Demand is also on the rise in the ultra-luxury segment. BMW’s Rolls-Royce sold 3,575 cars, the most in its 108-year history, as the U.S overtook China as the brand’s biggest market. VW’s Bentley today reported a 22 percent surge in 2012 sales to 8,510 cars after expanding with cheaper V8 engines.
“We expect the luxury market in 2013 to continue to be challenging,” Bentley Chief Executive Wolfgang Schreiber said in a statement today. “With significant new model introductions, we believe we have the potential to maintain growth.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Reiter in Berlin at email@example.com