BERLIN (Reuters) - Volkswagen’s (VOWG_p.DE) luxury car brand Audi outsold market leader BMW (BMWG.DE) for the first time in more than a year in April as continued high demand from China, the United States and Russia boosted vehicle sales.
Deliveries of Audi cars and sport-utility vehicles increased 14.4 percent in April to 125,200, the company said on Wednesday. Sales of BMW brand models rose 7.4 percent, about half of Audi’s pace, to 121,476 cars.
Ingolstadt-based Audi has narrowed the gap with BMW on year-to-date deliveries, which rose 11.7 percent to 471,300. That compares with a 10.1 percent gain to 478,030 vehicles at its Munich-based rival. A spokeswoman for Audi said monthly sales at the VW unit last surpassed BMW in January 2011.
Audi is vying with Daimler’s (DAIGn.DE) Mercedes-Benz division, which it surpassed on sales last year, to grab the sales lead in luxury autos by the end of the decade. The VW unit has a goal of doubling deliveries to about 2 million by 2020.
“Audi will remain the No. 1 challenger to BMW over the next four to five years,” said Frank Schwope, an analyst with NordLB in Hanover. “They’re firmly rooted in lucrative markets and benefit greatly from VW resources.”
Audi, which contributed 44 percent to VW group’s first-quarter operating profit of 3.21 billion euros ($4.17 billion), posted a 4.9 percent gain in European auto sales, powered by a 13.7 percent expansion in France and near-double digit growth in its German home market, even as the euro-region economy slows.
By contrast, BMW group sales including the Mini brand and Rolls-Royce vehicles declined 2 percent in Europe to 68,033.
Delivery growth at Mercedes dropped off its double-digit monthly pace in April, with just 3.6 percent more cars sold over the year-earlier period, a total of 104,344.
April was the weakest month for Mercedes so far this year, following expansion of 5.1 percent in January, 20.3 percent in February and 11.0 percent in March.
Reporting By Andreas Cremer; Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford