Audi cut BMW's lead in 2012 luxury-car sales to just 2,110 vehicles in August, threatening BMW's seven-year hold on the top position globally in premium auto deliveries.
The Volkswagen Group's luxury brand boosted eight-month sales 13 percent to 961,000 vehicles, compared with the BMW brand's 7.8 percent increase to 963,110 autos, according to the two companies' monthly sales reports.
BMW led by 40,513 vehicles through August of last year.
VW is reaping the benefits from pouring $25.6 billion into r&d at Audi since 2002. The luxury brand now sells 12 model lines, twice what it had in 2003, including three SUVs, the A1 compact and the R8 sports car. Audi, which ranks second in premium-vehicle deliveries since overtaking Mercedes-Benz in 2011, has a goal of beating BMW by 2020.
Audi is likely to overtake BMW several years ahead of that target unless "there are surprising shifts in market share which I don't expect, especially in China," said Daniel Schwarz, a Commerzbank analyst in Frankfurt. Audi, he said, is "the strongest growing luxury brand, and they just launched the A3, which is close to being their best-selling car in a peak year."
The updated A3 hatchback went on sale in Germany in August, three weeks ahead of Mercedes' updated A class. Mercedes plans to expand its lineup of compacts from two to at least five in coming years and has opened a plant in Hungary dedicated to building smaller models.
"There will be more A-class derivatives over the coming years," Schwarz said. "But the A3 is established in the market and will take the lead among the three brands, helping Audi to keep its sales momentum."
The 102,730 vehicles BMW sold in August fell short of the 108,100 sold by Audi, which also passed the BMW brand in deliveries in April and July. The VW unit's delivery growth was led by jumps so far this year of 33 percent in China and 18 percent in the United States, the world's two biggest auto markets.
"Every month the figures are surprisingly good," said Albrecht Denninghoff, a Silvia Quandt analyst in Frankfurt. "Audi's growth is overwhelmingly because of China, with the United States also playing a role."