BMW regains world luxury car lead from Audi as Mercedes falls back
FRANKFURT (Bloomberg) -- BMW regained the top spot in global luxury auto sales from Audi last month on demand for the 3 series and X1 SUV, while the Mercedes-Benz brand fell further behind its German rivals.
Deliveries at the BMW brand, the world's biggest luxury carmaker since 2005, rose 7 percent in February, beating the 3.2 percent gain posted by Volkswagen's Audi. BMW's bigger increase helped propel it back into the sales lead for the year, with the automaker delivering 407 more cars than Audi in the first two months.
Mercedes slipped deeper into third place, delivering 37,229 vehicles fewer than BMW through February, after sales at the Stuttgart-based carmaker dropped 5.8 percent last month. The automaker is bringing new models to market in the coming months that it says will help boost deliveries.
BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer said in Geneva this week that the carmaker's factories are running at full capacity to keep up with customer demand. Sales of the X1 SUV through February gained 40 percent, while the 3 series climbed 26 percent. Audi's gains were led by demand for the A1 small car and Q3 compact SUV.
"In February the BMW Group achieved another healthy increase in sales and we intend to continue the positive development with exciting new models throughout the year," Ian Robertson, BMW sales chief, said in a statement on Friday.
The German luxury carmakers, all of which are targeting sales increases this year, have fared better than the region's volume automakers as rising demand in China and the U.S. offset plunging industrywide deliveries in Europe. The region is wrestling with a sixth straight year of declines, with car sales in January at the lowest for that month since records began in 1990.
"The luxury carmakers benefit from their presence in the growth regions," said Frank Biller, a Stuttgart-based analyst with LBBW. "In the current market situation the success depends on offering the right models."
Mercedes is looking for a sales boost this year once it adds the CLA four-door coupe to its compact car line-up in April and brings out a revamped version of its upscale E class at the same time. A new generation of Mercedes's flagship S-class sedan is scheduled to reach showrooms in the second half. The automaker's two-month deliveries rose 1.3 percent.
To meet rising demand of its A- and B-class compact cars, the manufacturer will increase production of the vehicles with 21 extra shifts at the plant in Rastatt, Germany. The compact car facility in Kecskemet, Hungary, will add Saturday production from April onwards and more SUVs will be built at the U.S. plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Daimler has said.
Sales at the German luxury carmakers took a hit last month because the Chinese New Year, which happened in January in 2012, fell in February this year. Audi, which has the highest deliveries in the country of the three, posted a 3.5 percent contraction in China, while Mercedes dropped 47 percent. BMW, which also owns the Mini and Rolls-Royce brands, increased sales 3.2 percent in the country.
Daimler aims to catch up with the competition in China by folding its sales and marketing organizations for imported and locally produced cars into one entity. The company has also named Hubertus Troska, a former truck manager, to the board to oversee the Chinese operations.
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