BERLIN (Bloomberg) -- Mercedes-Benz, BMW AG and Audi AG are adding staff and cutting summer factory breaks to boost production as demand for luxury cars returns quicker than they had planned.
Daimler AG, the parent of Mercedes, has hired 1,800 temporary workers and added Saturday shifts at German assembly plants making the SLS AMG gullwing supercar, GLK SUV and E-class convertible, spokeswoman Dominique Albrecht said. BMW has hired 5,000 temporary workers, while Volkswagen AG's Audi is adding extra shifts, the automakers said.
German luxury carmakers have been riding surging demand in China and a rebound in the United States and Europe. BMW's sales rose 11 percent in May, buoyed by deliveries of the 5-series sedan and Z4 roadster. Mercedes's sales climbed 17 percent as E-class demand surged 84 percent, while Audi deliveries advanced 15 percent. BMW said the new 5 series is sold out in all markets.
“The recovery in luxury-car demand has been a bit faster than expected as confidence returns,” said Colin Couchman, an analyst at IHS Global Insight in London. “The growth is sustainable, because these companies have continued to invest in new products and expand into new markets.”
The extra shifts are a turnaround from a year ago, when Daimler reduced hours for as many as 68,000 German employees to slash car production 23 percent. BMW, the world's largest maker of luxury vehicles, cut shifts for as many as 24,000 workers as it lowered output 13 percent.
Daimler and BMW, which recorded losses in their car divisions last year, are both predicting the units will return to profit on higher sales. Audi, whose profit fell last year, is forecasting “above average” growth in results this year as it targets a new sales record, Chief Financial Officer Axel Strotbek said June 22.
“We're now seeing in the U.S. that SUVs and everything else that's big and nice-looking is being sought after again,” Strotbek said at a briefing in Berlin.
BMW, which has risen 28 percent this year, fell as much as 1.9 percent to 40.57 euros (about $49.84) and was down 1.7 percent as of 10:37 CET in Frankfurt trading. Daimler, the second-largest luxury- car manufacturer, fell 2.9 percent to 42.16 euros, reducing its gain for the year to 13 percent. Volkswagen preferred shares fell 2.5 percent to 75.32 euros, scaling back the gain this year to 15 percent.
Daimler, based in Stuttgart, has eliminated a three-week halt at engine factories in Berlin, Untertuerkheim and Hamburg, and hired 700 students to boost Mercedes production during summer vacation, Albrecht said. The company is discussing extra shifts at the plant that produces the A- and B-class entry-premium compacts.
“The demand for our products is developing very positively,” Albrecht said. The three German Mercedes assembly plants have run at full capacity in the second quarter and overall production is nearing pre-crisis levels, she said.
BMW, based in Munich, has hired 5,000 temporary workers after eliminating most non-permanent staff during the financial crisis, spokesman Mathias Schmidt said, confirming comments by personnel chief Harald Krueger in an interview published by German business newspaper Handelsblatt yesterday. The company is also in talks with unions about expanding working hours, Schmidt said.
Audi, which aims to overtake BMW as the luxury leader by 2015, is adding extra shifts at its factory in Neckarsulm in Germany because of demand for the A8 luxury sedan and R8 sports car, spokeswoman Antje Bauer said. The company plans to add 100 temporary workers to the plant next month to support the introduction of new models such as the A7 coupe and A6 sedan.
BMW, which also owns the Mini and Rolls-Royce car brands, has sold out of the revamped 5 series in all markets, forcing customers to wait three to four months for deliveries, sales chief Ian Robertson said this week. The luxury sedan, which competes with the E class and A6, went on sale in Europe in late March.