FRANKFURT (Bloomberg) -- Daimler's Mercedes-Benz brand, the world's third-largest maker of premium cars, cut into No. 2 Audi's sales lead in 2013 as its compact cars won new buyers.
The brand's deliveries jumped 11 percent last year to 1.46 million cars and SUVs in the biggest gain since 2010. That compares with an 8 percent increase to 1.58 million posted by Audi on Thursday. BMW Group has yet to release annual sales figures for its BMW brand, the best-selling premium marque globally.
Mercedes narrowed the gap with Audi last year to 113,820 vehicles from 135,026 in 2012 as demand surged 64 percent for the A-class, B-class and CLA compacts. Sales increases by Mercedes outpaced Audi's gains in Europe and the United States.
"We look back on the best year of the Mercedes-Benz brand," Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Daimler, said today in a statement. "Our growth strategy is working."
Zetsche has vowed by the end of the decade to regain the top spot in global deliveries that Mercedes lost in 2005 to the BMW brand. He's rolling out 13 Mercedes models with no predecessor through 2020.
The new CLA four-door coupe went on sale last year and the compact GLA SUV starts deliveries in March. Mercedes is also renewing its best-selling C-class line, presenting the sedan version at the Detroit auto show next week.
December sales at Mercedes brand rose 11 percent to 138,180 vehicles, the automaker said today. Deliveries of the automaker's Smart brand declined 3 percent in 2013 to 100,792 vehicles, with the drop buffered by a 20 percent jump in December to 8,805 units.
Last month, Audi sold 130,700 vehicles, a rise of 18 percent.
"The CLA helped the brand expand beyond baby boomers to the Generations X and Y," said Sarwant Singh, a London-based automotive partner at Frost & Sullivan. "It dropped the average age of the buyers of the previous entry-level Mercedes, the C class, by 10 years."
In a statement on Thursday, Audi said that its sales last year were driven by demand for A3 compact models and the Q SUV lineup. The division is the biggest contributor of earnings at Volkswagen Group.