Luxury car market hanging in there around the world, as Mercedes edges its German rivals for the third straight year

Mercedes-Benz remains the world’s most popular luxury car brand, outselling its German arch-rivals BMW and Audi for the third successive year.

Combined sales of Mercedes-Benz cars and SUVs were 2,310,185 units last calendar year, up 0.6 per cent on 2017. This doesn't include vans, which are sold by a distinct organisation.

But it was a close-run thing. The BMW brand sold 1,959,460 cars, though its growth rate was higher. Audi sales, meanwhile, dipped 3.5 per cent in a “difficult environment” (tough WLTP emissions rules, which wreaked havoc across the VW Group) to 1,812,500 units.

Of course, these are just headline numbers.


Mercedes-Benz

  • It was Mercedes’ eighth-consecutive record sales year.
  • The Mercedes-AMG performance sub-brand sold more than 118,000 vehicles.
  • Mercedes is also the parent of the Smart car company, which sold 128,802 units last year, down 4.6 per cent.
  • The biggest region was Asia-Pacific (including Australia) with 943,473 units for growth of 7.8 per cent. About 70 per cent of this regional total came from China, up 11 per cent.
  • Sales in Europe were 933,679, down 2.3 per cent. About one-third of this sum came from Germany.
  • The NAFTA (USA, Canada, Mexico) region accounted for 378,013 sales, down 5.6 per cent. Within this the USA made up 315,959 units, down 6.3 per cent.
  • More than one-third of Mercedes-Benz Cars’ sales (820,000) were SUVs, led by the GLC and GLE.
  • One-in-four Mercedes-Benz cars sold were from its MFA-based compact family, comprising the A-Class, B-Class, CLA or GLA.
  • The C-Class was narrowly MB’s top-seller with 397,000 sales, ahead of the E-Class with 355,000. Remarkably MB sold almost 78,000 S-Class’s. Only 14,000 X-Class’s were sold.

“In 2018, Mercedes-Benz was at the top of the premium segment in the automotive industry for the third year in a row,” said Daimler AG board chair and the head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, Dieter Zetsche.

“In a highly competitive environment, we also remained at the top from month to month, thanks in particular to double-digit growth in China and many new models that have delighted both existing and new customers worldwide.

“We will continue rejuvenating our portfolio systematically in 2019. We see the major successes in our core business primarily as paving the way for shaping the individual mobility of tomorrow.”


BMW AG

  • BMW actually claimed to be 2018's "leading premium automotive company", moving 2,490,664 units.
  • However, this figure includes its Motorrad motorcycle division (165,566 units, up 0.9 per cent), as well as Mini (361,531, down 2.8 per cent) and Rolls-Royce (4107, up 22 per cent).
  • BMW M GmbH grew a massive 27 per cent to 102,780 (watch out AMG), led by the X3 M40i with 19,670.
  • The Bavarian brand still leads in Europe, with 1,097,654 units sold there, down 0.3 per cent. Germany made up 319,134 of these.
  • Its Asian market sales were 874,828 units (up 3.2 per cent), with 73 per cent of this regional haul sold in China.
  • The Americas represented 456,325 (up 1.4 per cent) of its sales, led by the USA with a 78 per cent share.
  • BMW and Mini sold 142,617 electric cars and hybrids, up 38.4 per cent. The 530e PHEV was the top-seller, while i3 EV sales grew 10.6 per cent to 34,829.
  • The company sold 792,590 BMW X-badged SUVs, or 37.3 per cent of the brand total.

"The BMW Group expects to achieve a slight increase in global sales in 2019, in the low to mid single-digit area," the company stated.

"The generally good economic environment and positive forecasts for the premium segment, in combination with our new models, especially the updated and expanded X-family portfolio, are expected to support sales growth in 2019.

"However political and economic circumstances are expected to remain volatile, which could have an impact on the automotive market."


Audi AG

  • Audi sales fell 3.5 per cent to 1,812,500 units.
  • Lamborghini managed 5750 sales, but we do not have separate data for Audi Sport GmbH (Audi R and RS models)
  • Sales in Europe fell by 13.6 per cent, though it remains number one in the massive China market
  • The top-sellers in China were the locally made A4 L and A3, and the company moved 10,000 units of the A8 L.
  • SUVs accounted for a whopping 57 per cent of all Audi sales in the USA.

“As expected, 2018 has proven extremely challenging with the largest model and technology campaign in Audi’s history – coinciding with the switch to the new WLTP test cycle,” said CEO and interim board member for sales and marketing Bram Schot.

“The positive feedback from our latest models demonstrates our brand’s strength, while we prepare for the new challenges ahead this year.”

Audi's sales report for 2018 contained less data than those of its rivals, hence fewer dot points. We reached out to the local arm for specific Audi Sport GmbH figures. 


Mini: 361,531

Rolls-Royce: 4107Ducati:N/A
Mercedes-BenzBMWAudi
Main brand 2,310,1851,959,4601,812,500
Growth over ‘17 +0.9%+1.8%-3.5%
China 652,996639,953663,049
Germany 303,862319,134260,456
Rest of Europe629,835778,520483,144
USA 315,959354,698223,323
Australia 32,20123,05519,416
Sub-brands Smart: 128,802Motorrad: 165,566Lamborghini: 5750
Performance armsAMG: 118,204BMW M: 102,780Audi Sport: N/A