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Mercedes 2013 Sales Increase Beats Audi Gains on Compacts

A Mercedes-Benz S350 Automobile Stands in a Showroom in Berlin
An employee inspects the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz S350 automobile inside the company's showroom in Berlin. Sales growth at Mercedes marked the biggest gain since 2010 when deliveries increased 15 percent. Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

Mercedes-Benz, the world’s third-largest maker of luxury autos, sliced into second-place Audi’s sales advantage in 2013 as its compact cars won new buyers.

Mercedes narrowed the gap to Audi last year to 113,820 vehicles from 135,026 in 2012 as demand surged 64 percent for the A-Class hatchback, B-Class wagon and CLA coupe. Increases by Mercedes outpaced Audi’s gains in Europe and the U.S.

“We look back on the best year of the Mercedes-Benz brand,” Dieter Zetsche, chief executive officer of Stuttgart, Germany-based parent company Daimler AG, said today in a statement. “Our growth strategy is working.”

Zetsche has vowed by the end of the decade to regain the top spot in global deliveries that Mercedes lost in 2005 to Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, which has yet to report 2013 figures. He’s rolling out 13 Mercedes models with no predecessor through 2020. The new CLA four-door coupe went on sale last year and the small sport-utility vehicle GLA starts deliveries in March. Mercedes is also renewing its best-selling C-Class line, presenting the sedan version at the Detroit Auto Show next week.

Younger Customers

“The CLA helped the brand expand beyond baby boomers to the Generations X and Y,” said Sarwant Singh, a London-based automotive partner at Frost & Sullivan. “It dropped the average age of the buyers of the previous entry-level Mercedes, the C-Class, by 10 years.”

Daimler rose as much as 0.8 percent and was trading up 0.2 percent at 62.25 euros as of 11:19 a.m. in Frankfurt. The stock has gained 45 percent in the past 12 months, valuing the company at 66.6 billion euros ($90.5 billion).

Mercedes deliveries jumped 11 percent in 2013 to 1.46 million cars and sport-utility vehicles in the biggest gain since 2010. That compares with an 8.3 percent increase to 1.58 million full-year deliveries that Volkswagen AG’s Audi division posted yesterday.

U.S. sales at Mercedes rose 14 percent last year, compared with a 13.5 percent increase for Audi, while European deliveries by Mercedes rose 5.9 percent versus a decline of 0.9 percent by Audi.

Chinese Performance

The VW unit’s 21 percent sales jump in China beat the 11 percent growth posted by the Daimler division. Mercedes is reorganizing its Chinese operations, including a push to open more dealerships, to become more competitive with Audi and Munich-based BMW in the country.

Mercedes’s global sales in December rose 11 percent to 139,180 vehicles. Daimler’s Smart city-car brand reported a 2.8 percent sales decline in 2013 to 100,792 vehicles, with the drop buffered by a 20 percent surge in December.

Audi said yesterday that 2013 sales, boosted by an 18 percent jump in December, were propelled by demand for A3 compact models and the Q SUV line-up.

The division is the biggest contributor of earnings at Wolfsburg, Germany-based Volkswagen, Europe’s third-biggest carmaker. Porsche, the maker of the 911 sports car that’s also owned by Volkswagen, reported a 15 percent increase in 2013 sales to 162,145 cars and SUVs.

Bentley, the U.K. ultra-luxury producer that’s a VW nameplate as well, boosted sales 19 percent to 10,120 autos. The German company’s main mass-market VW brand said today that 2013 sales rose 3.4 percent to 5.93 million cars and SUVs.

BMW’s Rolls-Royce super-luxury division said yesterday that 2013 sales rose 1.5 percent to 3,630 cars, helped by the introduction of the Wraith coupe.

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