FRANKFURT -- Surging demand in Germany helped Volkswagen's premium unit Audi AG increase global car sales by some 14 percent in May to over 72,000 units, the company said on Wednesday.
In the first five months of 2005, deliveries rose roughly 6 percent to a record 342,000 vehicles compared to 322,192 in the year-earlier period.
Sales in its largest market, Germany, rose by 9 percent to just over 101,000 cars so far this year, capped by a leap of over 32 percent in May alone.
A spokesman said the main catalyst for demand was its revamped executive wagon model, the A6 Avant, which was launched in March this year.
Audi AG makes up the core of parent Volkswagen's only profitable industrial division, the Audi Brand Group, and its performance is key for VW shareholders.
The carmaker, more than 99 percent owned by parent Volkswagen, expects to post its 12th straight year of rising car sales in 2005.
"It's very difficult to judge monthly sales figures when they are only published on occasion, but at first sight they look good and the performance at Audi -- also on the earnings side -- isn't bad," said HVB analyst Albrecht Denninghoff, who rates VW a "buy" with a 40 euro price target.
He said that the relaunched A6 Avant, the facelifted A4 sedan and the A3 hatchback were three good reasons why sales should rise as well as the fact that Easter holidays fell in April this year and not in May.
U.S. SALES FALL
"Audi is on track for a new record year," Ralph Weyler, sales and marketing head at the company, said in a statement.
"With this sales success, we are creating a good basis for the new models in the coming future like the Audi Q7, a completely new sporty crossover, and the Le Mans quattro, a purebred sports car," he continued.
Overall, the carmaker was able to post new delivery records in more than 25 markets.
In the United States, though, customers bought only 6,455 Audis in May, a 6.1 percent drop for the month and a 1.7 percent dip year-to-date, the spokesman said.
When asked what caused the fall, he said that Audi was willing to sacrifice market share to preserve its profitability in an industry dominated by heavy incentives.
Audi aims to clearly improve 2005 revenues and its finance chief has said earnings could rise as well this year, despite the unit's forecast for flat pretax profit.
The Ingolstadt-based company wants to increase car sales to 1 million units by 2008. Last year Audi brand sales rose 1.2 percent to 779,441 units.
Rival brands BMW and Mercedes-Benz have not yet reported May sales figures. In the first four months, 8.2 percent more vehicles were sold under the BMW marque while Mercedes-Benz suffered a decline of 6.5 percent decline in deliveries during the same period.