BMW holds off Audi as A3 sedan tightens race for luxury car lead

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MUNICH (Bloomberg) -- BMW Group held on to the lead in global luxury car sales as demand for 5-series sedans and X5 SUVs helped edge out Audi. BMW delivered about 1,000 more vehicles than Audi in May as the race for the top spot in the segment tightened, according to figures from the carmakers.

Through the first five months of 2014, Audi's sales climbed 12 percent, outpacing BMW's 11 percent gain. That helped the world's second-largest maker of luxury cars cut BMW's lead to about 8,200 autos from 11,000 a year ago. The Volkswagen Group subsidiary has been closing the gap on BMW in recent years as it expands its model lineup in a bid to become the best-selling luxury brand by the end of the decade.

In April, Audi rolled out a sedan version of the A3 in the U.S., helping sales there jump 26 percent last month. BMW responded with the 2-series compact coupe, which went on sale in March. "The BMW group continued to achieve record sales in May, keeping us well on track to sell over 2 million vehicles in 2014," Ian Robertson, head of sales and marketing at the Munich-based carmaker, said in a statement today. "Customer demand in the USA is showing solid growth, whilst Asia continues to be strong."

BMW's May deliveries advanced 10 percent to 153,023 vehicles, as 5-series sales gained 11 percent and X5 demand surged 63 percent. Audi's sales climbed 11 percent to 152,000 cars in May, lifted by a 43 percent surge for A3 models and a 21 percent gain in demand for the Q3 compact SUV.

Mercedes gains

Daimler's Mercedes-Benz, which also aims to overtake BMW in sales, increased deliveries 10 percent in May to 134,031, buoyed by demand for its C-class sedan and GLA compact SUV. The five-month sales lead by BMW over third-place Mercedes was about 80,700 vehicles, narrowing from the year-earlier difference of 88,300 autos. BMW introduced the plug-in hybrid i8 last week, its first sports car in more than three decades.

BMW is forecasting global demand for cars to rise this year, underpinning its goal of selling a record number of autos across its BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce brands. To maintain the top spot in luxury cars, the manufacturer is rolling out models including the 4-series coupe, the X4 SUV and the van-like 2-series Active Tourer.

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