MUNICH (Bloomberg) -- Mercedes-Benz was the world’s best-selling luxury car brand for the third consecutive month in September, surpassing BMW and Audi as demand for SUVs and growth in China helped its sales grow twice as fast as at either competitor.
Deliveries at the Daimler luxury unit rose 16 percent to 188,400 cars last month, compared with 180,500 BMW-brand autos and 170,900 at Audi.
A bevy of SUVs, including the new GLC and GLE and the GLA, have put the Mercedes brand on course to outsell Audi for the first time since 2010, said Tim Urquhart, a London-based analyst for IHS Automotive.
The Chinese market has helped make the difference for Mercedes, which is locked in a three-way battle with BMW and Audi for No. 1 in the world’s luxury-car market.
Mercedes sales in China soared 31 percent this year through September, thanks in large part to new models such as the small SUVs. That compares with a 2 percent gain for BMW and nearly level sales for Audi, which saw only a 0.3 percent increase in China. A stock market rout and cooling economic growth have combined to leave customers there wary of buying new cars.
“What’s encouraging to see is volume growth for all three carmakers in China, not only for the month of September but for the year so far,” said Marc-Rene Tonn, an analyst with Warburg Research in Hamburg. “This shows that perhaps concerns for China were overblown.”
BMW’s sales climbed 12 percent in September in China, while Audi’s sales rose 2.9 percent. Mercedes reported a 53 percent leap in China volume last month.
BMW, the leader so far this year in the luxury-car market, was the last of the three companies to report monthly sales. During the first three quarters, BMW’s global deliveries rose 5.8 percent to 1.4 million cars, followed by Mercedes with a 15 percent gain to 1.38 million vehicles and Audi with a 3.8 percent gain to 1.35 million.
Audi’s September rise was its strongest since the beginning of the year, despite its parent company Volkswagen Group having been embroiled in a diesel emissions-rigging scandal since Sept. 18.