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Audi overtakes BMW in luxury car race

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Driven by the success of its sports utility vehicle Q3, car maker Audi has taken the top spot in the luxury car market from BMW in June this year.

But, BMW has challenged Audi’s sales figures, saying they reflect wholesale numbers and not retail sales.

Audi, which was number three in the pecking order in February, has seen sales move up impressively after it wrested the number two slot from German luxury car maker Mercedes Benz in March.

According to data from industry body Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), the Ingolstadt-based Audi has more than doubled sales to 759 units in June, from 354 units in the year-ago period. BMW, which has ruled the Indian luxury car market since March 2010, fell behind marginally with sales of 750 units. BMW registered the highest cumulative sales of 2,088 units in the segment for the quarter ended June.

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Globally, BMW, Audi and Mercedes are the top three brands  in the luxury car market, respectively. Since March 2010, BMW had been number one in India, followed by Mercedes and Audi. Audi overtook Mercedes in March 2012 and has sold more units in June 2012 than BMW 750
Sales Jun ‘12 BMW
-15.73
% change over Jun ‘11 2,088
Sales Apr-Jun ‘12 759
Sales Jun ‘12 Audi
114
% change over Jun ‘11 1,908
Sales Apr-Jun ‘12 622
Sales Jun ‘12 Mercedes Benz
-9.89
% change over Jun ‘11 1,257
Sales Apr-Jun ‘12 Source: SIAM

BMW says Audi is exaggertaing its numbers. “Audi has sold only 718 units in the retail market compared to 750 sold by us. What they have given to SIAM are wholesale numbers but we have given retail numbers,” says the company. SIAM executives clarified all car makers reported wholesale data, refusing to get into the companies’ claims and counter-claims.

Though Audi and BMW both have sports utility vehicles at the entry-level, BMW has had no new launches in the current year. Its relatively older product portfolio has been stunting growth, say industry observers. BMW has the X1, priced at an attractive Rs 22.5 lakh onwards, but has seen its share in the company’s own portfolio go down from 30 per cent last year to 26 per cent this year.

Audi, in the meantime, upgraded the sedan A4 (May 2012) and launched SUV Q3 in June this year at a price of Rs 26 lakh onwards. BMW executives say the company has at least four products lined up this year, two of which would be new models.

Audi India head Michael Perschke said, “Our product portfolio, innovative marketing initiatives and focus on dealer expansion are some of the prime drivers in this competitive scenario. The company is now well on track to achieve sales of 8,000 units by the year-end.”

The luxury car market in India increased nine per cent to 5,768 units in the first quarter this fiscal. Though the segment currently accounts for less than one per cent of the overall passenger vehicle market in India, sales are slated to increase tenfold to 200,000 units over 10 years.