Audi Beats BMW in January Sales on A4 Car’s China Version

Volkswagen AG’s Audi started the year beating luxury-car market leader Bayerische Motoren Werke AG in monthly sales, propelled by a 39 percent jump in deliveries in China, its biggest national market.

Audi sold 111,750 cars and sport-utility vehicles worldwide in January, a 16 percent increase from a year earlier. That compares with the BMW brand’s 12 percent gain to 107,276 deliveries posted by the Munich-based manufacturer today.

BMW, the world’s biggest luxury-vehicle maker since 2005, is working to stave off challenges by second-ranked Audi and third-place Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz unit for the top spot by the end of the decade. Audi’s sales last month were boosted by demand for the longer-body A4 sedan version targeted at the Chinese market, the Ingolstadt, Germany-based brand said on Feb. 6. BMW said it’s targeting a third annual sales record for 2013.

“Audi might take the lead in one month or another this year because of their strong market position in China, the main growth market, but for the full year, I still expect BMW to be ahead,” said Christian Ludwig, a Dusseldorf-based analyst at Bankhaus Lampe. “BMW has some product advantages, as they are rolling out the 3-Series GT and the new 4-Series in the volume segment this year.”

China’s Role

China became the BMW brand’s biggest national market last year, and its sales in the country rose 14 percent to 28,597 cars and SUVs, according to Linda Croissant, a spokeswoman. Worldwide group sales by BMW, which also owns the Mini small-car marque and Rolls-Royce ultra-luxury nameplate, rose 9.9 percent to 123,276 cars and SUVs in January, a record for the month, the company said today in a statement.

“Looking ahead, we expect the headwinds in Europe to remain,” Ian Robertson, BMW’s head of sales and marketing, said in the statement. “However, we are confident of healthy sales growth in other regions, especially Asia and the Americas.”

Global sales at Mercedes rose 9 percent in January to 94,895 vehicles, helped by demand for the A- and B-Class compacts and its SUV line-up, Stuttgart, Germany-based Daimler said on Feb. 5. Growth was damped as customers held off purchases of the upscale E-Class and high-end S-Class sedans until new versions of the models come out later this year.

Audi surpassed BMW in monthly sales three times in 2012, most recently in August, Susanne Brieu, an Audi spokeswoman, said by phone.

Daimler expects the global car market to increase 2 percent to 4 percent this year, and is targeting stronger growth for Mercedes, Chief Executive Officer Dieter Zetsche said at a Stuttgart press conference yesterday. Audi has outlined plans to reach 2 million annual deliveries by 2020.