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BMW holds off Audi to finish Q1 as world's top premium brand

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BMW holds off Audi to finish Q1 as world's top premium brand

Only 1,709 units separated No. 1 and No. 2 in the quarter

Douglas A. Bolduc

Automotive News Europe -- April 12, 2010 13:46 CET

MUNICH -- BMW brand outsold Audi by 1,709 units globally in the first quarter to maintain its place as the world's No. 1 premium brand.

BMW brand's global sales increased 13.8 percent to 265,809 in the quarter compared with 264,100 for Audi. BMW was helped by strong demand for the recently launched X1 small crossover and 7-series sedan. BMW sold 19,657 X1s in the first three months of the year while 7-series sales rose 54.1 percent to 14,245 units.

"We are back on our growth track in nearly all the automobile markets,” BMW sales boss Ian Robertson said in a statement. “We intend to continue improving on last year's figures throughout the second quarter.”

Robertson is counting on the new 5-series sedan and revised versions of the 3-series coupe and convertible to lead the way. The 5 series was launched last month in Europe and goes on sales in the United States in June. The 5 series accounts for just over half of BMW's profits.

Updated versions of the BMW 3-series models have been available to customers since late March. The new Countryman small crossover from BMW sister brand Mini arrives in the autumn.

The wave of new models is expected to help BMW Group, which includes the BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce brands, achieve “healthy growth in the single-digit percent range to reach more than 1.3 million vehicles" for the full year, Robertson said.

In the first quarter, BMW Group reported sales of 315,614 cars, a 13.8 percent increase compared with the same period last year.

Audi milestone

Last week, Audi for the first time passed Mercedes-Benz brand in global quarterly new-car sales and now sits in second place behind BMW. (See box, below)

The Volkswagen AG premium subsidiary's stated goal is to become the "most successful luxury automaker in the world by 2015," at which point it aims to sell 1.5 million cars a year.

Audi finished 2009 in third place in global premium-brand new-car sales. BMW was No. 1 and Mercedes ranked second.

Like BMW, Audi expects continued growth during the second quarter. Audi's A1 premium subcompact goes on sale in Europe in May. The A1's starting price will be 16,000 euros ($22,000), which is below the 16,600-euro starting price in Germany for a Mini One with a comparable engine.

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