Audi Overtakes BMW as World’s Leading Luxury Car Brand

Volkswagen’s Audi AG division sold 242,400 vehicles last month, and in doing so supplanted rival German automaker BMW as the world’s leading luxury brand – a title BMW had retained for nine consecutive years.

Audi and BMW are currently in a tightening race with the No. 3 global luxury brand, Mercedes-Benz, whose sales have risen at a faster rate than either of the two larger, leading brands in recent months.

According to Audi’s CEO Rupert Stadler, “Competition in the premium segment is more intense than ever.” In a recent interview Stadler said, “We’re ahead of our two main rivals in the first two months, but this doesn’t really interest me much. Our focus is on further growth.”

That “further growth” includes the introduction of 17 all-new or refreshed models this year, including the launch of the next generation TT sports model.  The automaker plans to invest the equivalent of $30.5 billion over the next five years in its quest to outsell the competition.

Sales of the Audi A3 rose 43 percent, and sales of the Q7 SUV were also up 32 percent in February. Audi’s overall sales were up 9.3 percent in February, while BMW saw an 8.9 percent increase in global sales. Meanwhile, Mercedes’ sales surged 17 percent, largely due to the popularity of its CLA coupe and recently refreshed flagship model, the S-Class sedan.

In an interview, Commerzbank AG analyst Daniel Schwarz predicted, “Both BMW and Audi will face increasing competition from Mercedes this year,”

Audi expects sales in China, its largest market, to reach more than 500,000 units this year, and is planning to add 160 new dealerships in that country according to the company’s sales chief Luca de Meo.

BMW is forecasting sales from all of its divisions to exceed 2 million units, and expects to overtake Audi by year’s end.  In a statement, the company’s sales chief Ian Robertson said, “The innovative new models coming out this year, such as the 2-Series Active Tourer and 4-Series Gran Coupe, will give us the momentum to keep growing in 2014.”

IHS Automotive Consulting predicts that BMW will indeed dethrone Audi.  The company has forecast BMW’s sales to reach 1.77 million units worldwide, compared to 1.66 million sales for Audi, and 1.56 million units for Mercedes.

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