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Audi climbs; Mercedes keeps slim lead over BMW

The revamped A3 sedan sold 2,159 units in its first full month in U.S. showrooms.

DETROIT (Bloomberg) -- Audi’s entry in the expanding sub-$30,000 luxury-car segment helped the Volkswagen AG unit post record April U.S. sales.

The revamped A3 sedan sold 2,159 in its first full month in showrooms, contributing to the brand’s 19 percent increase from a year earlier to 15,653 vehicles, Audi said in a statement Thursday. April was its second-best month ever, the unit of Wolfsburg, Germany-based Volkswagen said.

Audi has reported 40 consecutive record monthly sales and is on its way to beating its annual goal of 200,000 by 2020 “a good deal sooner,” Scott Keogh, the brand’s U.S. president, told reporters last month in Mountain View, California. Audi sold about 158,000 vehicles in the U.S. last year.

Audi is trying to keep pace with its German luxury rivals, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, in a segment that Keogh said will grow 15 percent by 2018. Luxury vehicles will increase to about 11.6 percent of U.S. auto sales from 10.5 percent, with much of that growth from entry- level vehicles such as the A3, Keogh said.

Lower-priced models are critical to BMW and Mercedes, which don’t have large high-volume feeder brands that, in theory, draw young buyers and keep them as they move up the economic ladder.

With Volkswagen, Audi should have an edge over BMW and Mercedes to attract new buyers, Kevin Tynan, an auto analyst with Bloomberg Industries, said in an interview. Yet Volkswagen’s struggle to boost U.S. sales has increased the importance of the A3, which starts at $29,900, for Audi.

“It’s almost like Audi can’t even use VW as a feeder brand, so Audi is using the A3 to fill its own feeder role,” Tynan said.

Mercedes, BMW

Mercedes’s CLA, the sporty, sub-$30,000 coupe that helped the brand take the U.S. luxury-sales crown from BMW in 2013, contributed 1,575 deliveries to the Daimler unit’s record April sales of 25,887 vehicles, according to a statement.

The total sales rose 9.5 percent from a year earlier, led by the CLA, as well as gains of 73 percent to 1,909 for its top-of-the-line S-class sedan, which starts at $92,900, and 37 percent to 6,056 for the E-class, which begins at $51,400.

BMW said it had April sales of 25,202 vehicles, up 8.5 percent, led by its mid-size sedans and SUVs. The automaker reported a combined 19 percent increase to 9,794 deliveries for its 3 series and 4 series and an 85 percent jump to 3,544 for the X3 SUV.

Mercedes has sold 98,501 vehicles for the year’s first four months, extended its lead over BMW, which delivered 97,579, to 922 cars and SUVs from 237 at the end of March. Sales for Audi through April totaled 50,881.

The figures don’t include Daimler’s cargo vans and Smart cars and BMW’s Mini brand, which aren’t luxury vehicles.

Mercedes for all of last year outsold BMW by 3,254 units, in results by reported sales. By vehicle registrations, Mercedes outsold BMW by 2,270 last year, according to researcher R.L. Polk & Co.

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