BERLIN (Bloomberg) -- Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz posted a 15 percent sales gain last year, boosted by the high-end E- and S- class models, to defend its lead over Volkswagen AG's Audi.
The brand's full-year deliveries rose to 1.17 million vehicles from 1.01 million, the automaker said Friday in a statement.
Mercedes' December registrations climbed 11 percent to 108,100 cars and sport- utility vehicles, the 14th straight month with a sales increase of more than 10 percent.
Luxury-car sales are snapping back from the financial crisis on demand in China and a rebound in the U.S.
Mercedes is also helped by a resurgent Germany, its largest market, where the economy grew at its fastest past since reunification in 1992.
Sales at Audi grew 15 percent to 1.09 million vehicles. The VW unit aims to overtake Mercedes, the second largest global premium car maker, and BMW AG, which is No. 1, to become the luxury leader by 2015.
Smart sales decline
Including the Smart mini-car brand, which recorded a 17 percent drop in deliveries, Daimler's car sales rose 12 percent in 2010 to 1.27 million.
Daimler's target for 2010 was to increase Mercedes sales by at least 10 percent.
“We were extremely successful this past year, exceeding all of our targets, some quite considerably,” CEO Dieter Zetsche said in the statement. “Prospects are looking very good in the new year,” with the overhauled CLS luxury coupe, updated C-class, and revamped SLK hard-top roadster hitting showrooms.
Sales of the E-class sedan climbed 32 percent, while deliveries of the top-of-the-line S-class rose 25 percent. Demand in China more than doubled to 148,400 cars, while sales in the U.S. rose 14 percent to 216,400.