BMW brand regained luxury sales lead from Audi in February
FRANKFURT -- BMW regained the global lead for luxury car sales from Audi after its volume for the core BMW brand rose 7 percent to 114,908 last month as increased demand in China, the UK and Russia offset weakness in Germany and other parts of Europe.
Audi's vehicle sales for February were up 3.2 percent to 110,000 while Mercedes-Benz brand fell 5.8 percent to 90,083 vehicles.
BMW Group global sales including Mini and Rolls-Royce grew 4.7 percent in February to 133,630, BMW said today. Strong demand for the X1 and 3-series models offset lower volume at Mini. In the first two months, group sales rose 7.1 percent to 256,929.
BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer said in Geneva this week that the carmaker's factories are running at full capacity to keep up with customer demand. Sales of the X1 sport-utility vehicle through February gained 40 percent, while the 3 series climbed 26 percent.
Audi's gains were led by demand for the A1 small car and Q3 compact SUV. Mercedes is looking for a sales boost this year once it adds the CLA four-door coupe to its compact car line-up in April and brings out a revamped version of its upscale E Class at the same time. A new generation of Mercedes's flagship S-class sedan is scheduled to reach showrooms in the second half.
Mini sales down
Mini's volume fell 7.5 percent to 18,527 in February. Mini sales since January have dropped 3.9 percent to 34,391. BMW said it expects the launch of the Mini Paceman in mid-March to boost the brand's volume.
BMW Group sales in the United States, the company's biggest single market, fell 2.2 percent to 25,613 last month.
Sales in China, the company's No. 2 market, were up by 2.3 percent to 23,449. Mercedes sales in China dropped by 47 percent last month and Audi's volume was down 3.5 percent as local New Year celebrations curbed the number of days car dealerships traded.
At home in Germany, BMW Group's third-biggest market, growth was stagnant in February, with sales of 17,960, some 253 fewer cars than the year before. In the UK, BMW Group sales rose 26.7 percent last month to 6,928. Russia sales increased 28 percent to 3,261.
Audi drops back
Audi began the year ahead of BMW brand after its January global sales were driven by a 39 percent jump in deliveries in China, its biggest national market.
But BMW brand is now back in front with two-month sales of 222,207, up 9.2 percent on the same period in 2012, ahead of Audi's 221,800 volume, up 9.4 percent, and Mercedes brand, whose sales grew 1.3 percent to 184,978.
The German luxury carmakers are all targeting sales increases this year and they have fared better than Europe's volume automakers as rising demand in China and the U.S. offset plunging industrywide deliveries in Europe. The region is wrestling with a sixth straight year of declines, with car sales in January at the lowest for that month since records began in 1990.
"The luxury carmakers benefit from their presence in the growth regions," said Frank Biller, a Stuttgart-based analyst with LBBW. "In the current market situation the success depends on offering the right models."
Last year, BMW was the No. 1 global premium brand by volume with unit sales of 1.54 million, compared with Audi's 1.45 million and Mercedes brand's 1.32 million.
Bloomberg and Reuters contributed to this report
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