Audi was the world’s biggest seller of luxury cars in April, edging out BMW AG’s namesake brand and fast-growing Mercedes-Benz.
Bolstered by U.S. demand for the Audi Q5 and Q7 sport utility vehicles, the Volkswagen AG unit’s deliveries rose 2.5 percent to 152,850 cars last month, compared with BMW’s 5.6 percent increase to 148,896 autos. Daimler AG’s Mercedes remained the fastest growing of the world’s three biggest luxury-car brands, posting an 11 percent gain to 148,072 cars.
“We’re seeing growth at a good pace,” Audi Chief Executive Officer Rupert Stadler told reporters on Tuesday at a presentation of the revamped Q7 sport utility vehicle in Verbier, Switzerland. “We started the year with a very decent first quarter.”
BMW has vowed to defend its annual lead in global premium car sales, even as key models such as the 7-Series sedan age. The three German luxury-car brands are adding all-new models to widen their appeal and gain an edge over rivals. BMW is rolling out the van-like Gran Tourer this year, and Mercedes plans a pickup truck by the end of the decade.
Through the first four months of 2015, BMW held onto its No. 1 ranking, with sales up 5.5 percent to 600,473 cars. Audi’s deliveries increased 5.2 percent to 591,050 vehicles, while Mercedes demand jumped 14 percent to 577,674 autos.
Audi will expand its SUV offerings with the new subcompact Q1 next year and the full-size Q8 by 2019, Stadler said. The Ingolstadt-based carmaker expects SUVs to account for about 40 percent of total vehicle sales in 2020 compared with 32 percent now.
Those new additions could be critical. Competition in China, the manufacturer’s largest market, is set to intensify as growth moderates. Stadler forecast industrywide demand in the country to rise about 8 percent this year, which is still faster than many other major markets.