Audi sold 242,400 vehicles through February, 383 more than the BMW brand, according to data from the German automakers. At the same time last year, Audi trailed BMW, which has been No. 1 in the segment for nine straight years, by 429 autos.
The Volkswagen AG (VOW) brand’s gains signal a tightening race for the title of the world’s biggest maker of premium vehicles. Mercedes-Benz, the global No. 3, has grown at a faster pace in recent months than its two larger rivals. All three vow to hold the luxury sales crown at the end of the decade.
“Competition in the premium segment is more intense than ever,” Audi Chief Executive Officer Rupert Stadler said today at the marque’s headquarters in Ingolstadt. “We’re ahead of our two main rivals in the first two months, but this doesn’t really interest me much. Our focus is on further growth.”
Audi, which has never held the top post for an entire year, will introduce 17 new or revamped models in 2014, including a remake of the iconic TT sports car. The rollouts are part of a plan to invest 22 billion euros ($30.5 billion) in the next five years to sustain growth.
Audi’s February sales were lifted by a 43 percent jump for the A3 compact and 32 percent gain for the Q7 sport-utility vehicle. The VW marque sold 9.3 percent more cars in the first two months, compared with BMW’s 8.9 percent rise. Deliveries at Daimler AG (DAI)’s Mercedes surged 17 percent through February, propelled by the CLA coupe and revamped flagship S-Class sedan.
“Both BMW and Audi will face increasing competition from Mercedes this year,” Daniel Schwarz, a Frankfurt-based analyst at Commerzbank AG, said by phone.
Audi today forecast deliveries in China, its largest market, will exceed 500,000 in 2014 for the first time helped by the rollout of the A3 sedan and the Q3 compact SUV. The automaker is opening one new dealership in China every week to expand its sales network to 500 outlets in the coming years from the current 340, sales chief Luca de Meo said.
BMW said last week that groupwide sales, including the Mini and Rolls Royce brands, will reach a record 2 million vehicles this year. The Munich-based automaker expects to make up ground on Audi in the coming months as it rolls out a remake of the X5 SUV and other new cars.
“The innovative new models coming out this year, such as the 2-Series Active Tourer and 4-Series Gran Coupe, will give us the momentum to keep growing in 2014,” Ian Robertson, BMW’s sales chief, said today in a statement.
Those models will likely help BMW retain the lead in global luxury-car sales for a 10th straight year in 2014. IHS Automotive estimates that the BMW brand will sell 1.77 million cars, beating Audi’s 1.66 million and Mercedes’s 1.56 million.
Audi today announced plans for an electric version of the R8 sports car, which will compete with BMW’s plug-in hybrid i8. The BMW model, which features a carbon-fiber chassis, goes on sale later this year. Audi will build the R8 to order.
“We increased the reach from 215 kilometers (134 miles) to about 450 kilometers,” development chief Ulrich Hackenberg said. “That’s a decisive step toward every-day usability.”
BMW surpassed Stuttgart-based Mercedes in global sales in 2005 and has held that post on an annual basis since then.
Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche is rolling out 13 new vehicles, including a dozen with no predecessor, by the end of the decade to gain momentum. Vehicles coming to market in 2014 include the GLA compact SUV, the S-Class coupe and a revamped C-Class, the automaker’s best-selling model.
“If the new generation C-Class is as successful as previous models, competition for BMW and Audi is set to intensify,” Schwarz said today.
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