FRANKFURT -- Audi said strong growth in China and in its German home market, as well as strong sales of its new A1 entry-level model, helped it achieve the best first-quarter new car sales in its history.
Audi's global sales rose 18.4 percent to 312,600 in the first three months, compared with the same period in 2010. March sales were up 13.9 percent to 125,700.
Sales of the new the A1, contributed to the first-quarter growth, Audi said. The carmaker has sold 31,000 A1s since January, with 13,880 units sold in March. The A1 is Audi's smallest and least expensive model, starting at 15,800 euros in Germany.
Peter Schwarzenbauer, head of marketing and sales, said the latest-generation A6, which launched in Europe on April 1, will give the brand a further boost in the coming months.
"The A6 is very successful in its segment. With the new generation we see even greater potential – especially in China and the United States, but in Germany as well," Schwarzenbauer said in a statement. "Over the life cycle of the new A6 sedan we want to exceed the total sales volume of its predecessor by around 25 percent," he added.
Audi sold about 1 million units of the outgoing A6 during its seven-year life cycle.
In the first quarter, China was Audi's biggest single market with sales up 24.6 percent to 64,122. Germany was the brand's No. 2 market with sales growing by 13.7 percent to 56,283. In its third-largest market, the UK, Audi sales also increased 13.7 percent with 34,869 units sold.
Audi sales in the United States rose 19.1 percent to 25,383 in the first quarter.
Audi, which is targeting record sales of 1.2 million cars and SUVs this year, has a goal of dethroning BMW as the world's largest maker of luxury cars by 2015 when it wants to reach annual sales of 1.5 million vehicles.
BMW will report first-quarter sales later this month. On April 5, Daimler's Mercedes-Benz brand reported a 12.4 percent rise in first-quarter sales to 280,552.