FRANKFURT -- Strong China sales helped to push Mercedes-Benz ahead of rival Audi in global sales last year as the race for bragging rights as the world's top-selling luxury automaker heats up.
BMW, whose namesake brand in 2014 topped then-No.2 Audi and No.3 Mercedes, reports 2015 sales on Monday.
Sales of Mercedes-branded vehicles rose 13 percent to 1,871,511 cars, compared with a 3.6 percent jump to 1,803,250 vehicles sold by Volkswagen Group subsidiary Audi last year, figures released today show.
Both automakers posted record sales in 2015, but Mercedes saw stronger growth in China, the world's largest car market, where its deliveries jumped 33 percent to 373,459 vehicles.
Daimler has benefited from surging demand for its new C class midsize sedan, which saw sales jump 40 percent to 443,909 cars last year.
The C class has been in showrooms since March 2014, but the start of production of a long-wheelbase version in China in July 2014 has added further momentum to Mercedes's fortunes in the country.
The launch of a new E class is expected to add further momentum, Daimler said.
"We anticipate additional sales impetus in 2016 from the new E class," Ola Kaellenius, board member for Mercedes-Benz sales, said in a statement.
Mercedes is due to present the new E class at the Detroit auto show next week.
In contrast, Audi's China sales slumped 1.4 percent last year, to 570,889 cars. Volkswagen's flagship division is readying a lighter and more fuel-efficient version of the A4, which last year added a fifth to Audi's global output.
In recent months Audi and parent company Volkswagen have been embroiled in a scandal over manipulated engines.
Audi said in a statement that it expects a sales boost when its new A4 and Q7 models are full available. “With sales of 1.8 million, we surpassed the target set in our Strategy 2015 of 1.5 million cars by 300,000,” Audi CEO Rupert Stadler said in the statement.
In 2014 BMW brand's sales of 1.81 million earned it the No. 1 spot. The company has said it expects to beat the figure for 2015. The brand's sales increased 5.8 percent to 1,395,780 million in the first three quarters of 2015.
Audi took second place in 2014, delivering 1.74 million vehicles. Mercedes lagged behind with 1.65 million cars sold in that year. BMW has held the global luxury sales crown since 2005.
Reuters contributed to this report