Mercedes Sales Growth Tops Competition on Compact Car Surge

Feb 11, 2014 5:04 am ET

(Updates with analyst’s comment in third paragraph.)

Feb. 11 (Bloomberg) -- Mercedes-Benz’s vehicle sales grew faster in January than at Bayerische Motoren Werke AG and Audi AG, helping the German manufacturer to further close the gap in deliveries to its two bigger rivals.

Daimler AG’s Mercedes, the third-biggest maker of luxury autos, posted a 15 percent sales gain last month to 109,500 cars and sport-utility vehicles on a 32 percent surge for compact models. Demand at Volkswagen AG’s Audi rose 12 percent from a year earlier to 124,850 cars and SUVs, while BMW’s deliveries increased 9.2 percent to 117,200.

“Daimler’s new models are giving them a lot of tailwinds,” said Frank Biller, a Stuttgart, Germany-based analyst at LBBW. “They are currently benefiting from the model cycle but shouldn’t relax. They need to continue to introduce new vehicles and fight for the customer.”

Chief Executive Officer Dieter Zetsche is rolling out 30 new vehicles by the end of the decade, 13 of which will have no predecessor, in an effort to regain the sales advantage Mercedes lost to BMW in 2005 and Audi in 2011. All three German luxury- car producers delivered record numbers of vehicles last year and plan on further growth in 2014.

“Our target is to increase overall global sales for a fourth successive year,” Ian Robertson, sales chief at Munich- based BMW, said in a statement today.

Chinese Demand

January deliveries of BMW’s X3 sport-utility vehicle grew 18 percent, and demand for the 5-Series sedan advanced 14 percent. Chinese sales by the BMW group, which also includes the Mini brand, gained 22 percent.

The European car market will probably recover from a two- decade low this year as deliveries are expected to grow 2 percent, according to the ACEA industry group. The Brussels- based organization is forecasting that the market will expand to “just above” 12 million vehicles from about 11.8 million cars in 2013.

For the first time since 2010, Stuttgart-based Mercedes last year posted a higher sales-growth rate than BMW, and in the final months of 2013 grew faster than Audi. Mercedes’s full-year deliveries increased 11 percent, compared with Audi’s 8.3 percent increase and the BMW brand’s 7.5 percent advance.

Shares Rise

Daimler rose as much as 2.3 percent to 64.68 euros, the highest intraday price since Jan. 24, as of 11:02 a.m. in Frankfurt. The stock has increased 2.8 percent this year, valuing the company at 69.2 billion euros ($94.6 billion). BMW gained as much as 2 percent to 83.65 euros and Volkswagen rose as much as 1.2 percent to 191.90 euros.

Mercedes hasn’t been able to produce enough compact vehicles to meet demand, Zetsche told analysts last week. The company is introducing a small SUV dubbed the GLA in March as its fourth compact model, joining the CLA coupe, A-Class hatchback and van-like B-Class.

The brand’s Chinese sales last month jumped 45 percent. Global deliveries of the flagship S-Class sedan surged 69 percent.

Ingolstadt-based Audi’s January sales in China rose 18 percent to 44,500 vehicles on demand for its top-of-the-line Q7 SUV. Global growth was boosted by a 67 percent jump for the A3 compact, and a 73 percent increase for smaller Q3 SUV.

Daimler expects industrywide global car sales this year to rise 4 percent to 5 percent, helped by growth in China and the U.S. Sales by Mercedes will increase “significantly” as the division introduces a new generation of its best-selling C-Class model, Daimler said on Feb. 6.

The CLA, introduced last year, is winning over customers from BMW in the U.S., with 82 percent new to Mercedes, Zetsche said last week.

--Editors: Tom Lavell, Chad Thomas