Mercedes-Benz boosted sales twice as fast as BMW in the first quarter, moving closer to clinching the lead in the world’s luxury-car market for the first time in a decade.
The Daimler AG unit’s deliveries soared 13 percent to 483,487 vehicles in the three months through March, compared with a 6 percent increase to 478,743 cars for BMW AG’s namesake brand. Sales of compact cars such as the A-Class hatchback increased 26 percent to more than 150,000, Mercedes said. Volkswagen AG’s Audi ranked third at 455,750 vehicles sold, a gain of 4 percent from a year earlier.
Buoyed by the popularity of all-new models such as the GLC sport utility vehicle, Mercedes on course to overtake BMW in annual sales earlier than its 2020 target. The Daimler division expects sales momentum to accelerate in the second half of 2016, with the revamped E-Class sedan hitting showrooms. BMW has an older product lineup by comparison, with key models including its E-Class equivalent, the 5-Series sedan, not due for a refresh until next year.
In addition to its rivalry with Mercedes and Audi for the top rank in the luxury-car market, BMW is seeking to respond to challenges posed by the likes of Apple Inc. and Tesla Motors Inc. That’s prompting the German manufacturer to invest in new technology including plans for a self-driving electric car to supplant the 7-Series sedan as its flagship model. The push will be financed by more high-margin performance and luxury variants.
Monthly tallies still put BMW ahead of Mercedes for March. BMW delivered 201,352 cars, a gain of 2.9 percent. Mercedes sales climbed 8.4 percent to 198,921 autos. Audi gained 4.6 percent to 186,100 cars.