Audi's aging models lift sales, outshine Mercedes

Sales of Audi's A3 family, including the A3 sedan, grew 44% last month.
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FRANKFURT (Reuters) -- Audi posted another double-digit sales gain in April even as its product cycle has peaked, keeping German rival Mercedes-Benz at bay.

Audi's global sales rose 12 percent to 149,050 vehicles in April, the fourth-strongest rate of increase in the past 15 months, helped by demand for the automaker's A3 range and the Q3 SUV.

Four-month sales increased 12 percent to a record 561,900 vehicles, Audi said in a statement today.

"Such strong growth rates are positively surprising," said Frankfurt-based Commerzbank analyst Sascha Gommel. "Audi's model range is relatively old compared with Mercedes and BMW."

Deliveries grew in all of Audi's major markets and was supported by robust demand for its A3 compacts. A3 sales grew 44 percent last month to 25,766, helped by the recent launch of the A3 sedan in the United States. Deliveries of the Q3, currently Audi's smallest SUV, jumped 29 percent to 15,542 units in April.

"We continue to beat our own targets with the strong result in April that builds on first-quarter double-digit growth," Audi sales chief Luca de Meo said.

"Global demand is developing very positively for Audi especially in the compact segment and for the full-sized models. Thus we are strengthening our market position at both ends" of the portfolio,” de Meo said in the statement.

Audi's China sales rose 17 percent last month to 45,216, while in Europe, deliveries grew 9 percent to 71,150. Sales in Germany increased 9 percent to 25,503. In the UK, sales rose 24 percent to 12,630. U.S. deliveries were up 19 percent to 15,653.

Having doubled model lines and deliveries over the past decade to narrow the sales gap on luxury car market leader BMW, Audi is facing a barren spell on products just as core European markets are recovering.

Planned overhauls of the top-selling A4 and the Q7 SUV will be pushed into 2015 as the cars need to be reworked, company sources told Reuters. Audi mentioned the station wagon version of the overdue A4 as one model driving April volume.

Audi aims to increase deliveries beyond last year's record 1.58 million autos in 2014, as it eyes a target of at least 2 million cars in 2020.

On Tuesday, rival Mercedes-Benz said global brand sales rose 14 percent to 133,077 last month, with four-month volume up 15 percent to 507,353 vehicles. Mercedes is launching a spate of redesigned models to recoup ground after dropping to third place in luxury sales rankings behind Audi in 2011.

BMW is expected to publish global sales data for April next week.

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