x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

BMW keeps its German rivals at bay

BMW held on to the lead in global luxury-car sales for the ninth straight year even as Audi and Mercedes-Benz stepped up efforts to overtake their German rival.

BMW brand sales increased 7.5 per cent to a record 1.66 million cars last year. Graham Crouch / Bloomberg News
BMW brand sales increased 7.5 per cent to a record 1.66 million cars last year. Graham Crouch / Bloomberg News

BMW held on to the lead in global luxury-car sales for the ninth straight year even as Audi and Mercedes-Benz stepped up efforts to overtake their German rival.

BMW brand sales increased 7.5 per cent to a record 1.66 million cars last year, fuelled by demand for the 3-Series sedan and X1 compact sport-utility vehicle, the Munich-based manufacturer said yesterday. Including Mini and Rolls-Royce, sales rose 6.4 per cent to 1.96 million vehicles last year.

“The BMW group posted record sales once again in 2013 and is clearly the No.1 in the premium segment,” BMW’s sales chief Ian Robertson said. “Despite the prevailing headwinds in many markets, we aim to increase sales and make 2014 another record year.”

BMW is stepping up spending on new models to fend off Daimler’s Mercedes and Volkswagen’s Audi, which have both vowed to take the lead in the segment by the end of the decade. To keep its edge, the maker of BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce vehicles plans to introduce the i8 plug-in hybrid sports car.

At the North American International Auto Show in Detroit yesterday, BMW was to showcase the new 2-Series compact coupe to help to regain the luxury-car sales lead in theUnited States, which it lost to Mercedes last year. The 2-Series will replace the 1-Series in the US in the first quarter.

Both Audi and Mercedes narrowed the gap last year. Audi cut its deficit to 79,600 cars in 2013 from 85,000 in 2012, while Mercedes trailed by 193,500 vehicles compared with 220,000 in 2012.

“BMW still has quite a large edge over the competition,” said Frank Schwope, an analyst with Nord in Hanover, Germany. “Mercedes and Audi won’t able to catch up so quickly, as BMW can keep pace with new models.”

Audi reported an 8.3 per cent rise in global sales in 2013 to a record 1.58 million cars, driven by the revamped compact A3 model and the brand’s growing line-up of SUVs. Mercedes, which lost the lead in luxury-car sales to BMW in 2005, delivered 1.46 million cars last year, up 11 per cent.

Demand for BMW’s 3-Series surged 23 per cent to more than 500,000 vehicles. The world’s best-selling luxury car will face tougher competition when Mercedes rolls out an overhauled version of the C-Class starting in March.

Mercedes, the world’s third-largest maker of luxury cars, sliced into No.2 Audi’s sales advantage last year as its compact cars won new buyers. The company plans to further narrow the gap this year and is forecast to overtake Audi in 2015, according to forecasts from IHS Automotive.

Audi is responding with the new A3 sedan in the US and a revamped version of the TT coupe in 2014. Over the next five years, Audi plans to spend €22 billion (Dh110.4bn) to expand its line-up to 60 models from 49 and add production capacity in China, Brazil and Mexico.

All three German luxury-car brands posted sales records last year as they tap into rising wealth in countries such as China, India and Russia and a rebound in spending in the US.

This year, the manufacturers are again expected to grow. BMW is forecast to retain its lead with sales of 1.77 million vehicles, beating Ingolstadt-based Audi’s 1.66 million and Stuttgart-based Mercedes’s 1.56 million, according to data from IHS Automotive.

* Bloomberg News