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German luxury car importers on record pace

Sting in the tail: Mercedes-Benz’s new CLA will provide the icing on the sales cake for the Stuttgart company in Australia as it soars in 2013.

Mercedes to become first luxury importer to hit 20,000 sales – and take BMW’s crown


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14 Oct 2013

AUSTRALIA’S leading luxury car companies, Mercedes-Benz and BMW, are both on target to smash through the 20,000-vehicle sales barrier for the first time this year as the prestige car market booms.

Helped by more affordable entrants such as the all-new Mercedes A-Class and B-Class and BMW 1 Series, the German marques are leaving the others in their dust as they draw new customers not only from traditional well-heeled circles but, increasingly, from middle Australia too.

This year, Mercedes is set to wrestle back its luxury vehicle sales crown from BMW which has taken the title 19 times in the past 22 years, if we discount Mercedes’ line of commercial vehicles – an area in which BMW does not compete.

Mercedes has already clocked up more than 17,000 passenger car and SUV sales in Australia to the end of September – up on BMW’s 15,384 units for the nine months – meaning it will whistle past its previous annual sales record of 18,464 passenger vehicles, set in 2010, this month.

At the same time, it is also set to become the first luxury car brand to achieve 20,000 units. Benz passenger car and SUV sales so far this year are running 30 per cent higher than last year, with the new A-Class and B-Class contributing a combined 5000 units to date.

Even better for Benz, its new CLA compact sedan is just arriving on the market to give the brand a kick of about 600 incremental units over the last quarter of 2013.

As well, its top-selling C-Class sedan – up 2.7 per cent this year – is edging towards 5000 sales and victory for a sixth consecutive year over arch rival BMW 3 Series in the medium luxury car class. Less clear is what impact the new, more affordable CLA sedan will have on C-Class in the long term, but either way, Benz is kicking goals.

Extrapolating Mercedes’ current sales rate to the end of the year, the Stuttgart brand might well achieve 24,000 units by December 31, barring stock shortages, a global economic meltdown or some other calamity.

BMW might be trailing Mercedes in overall sales, but it is still having its best year on record, running 12.9 per cent up on last year. The Munich car-maker went on to achieve a best-ever 18,413 sales in 2012, just falling short of Mercedes’ industry record in 2010.

Like Benz, BMW has new models just arriving, with the new 4 Series – formerly the 3 Series coupe and convertible in the previous generation – rolling off the boats right now.

Almost all of BMW’s volume sellers are on a high, led by the barnstorming X5 large SUV which is up 34.5 per cent year to date and comfortably leading its segment.

Like Mercedes, BMW might also crack the 20,000 sales barrier before the close of play in 2013.

Another German marque zipping along with double-digit growth is third-placed Audi, up 11 per cent up over last year.

Sales of Audi’s compact Q3 have more than doubled this year, helping Audi to 41 per cent growth in its SUV volume.

However, things are not so rosy in its passenger car division, where most models with the exception of the new A3 hatchback, are struggling. Its car sales are down 6.3 per cent.

Despite this, Audi is in with a chance of breaking last year’s company sales record of 6839 vehicles, possibly topping 7000 units.

Japan’s leading luxury marque, Lexus, has been effectively marking time this year, with sales up just 1.8 per cent, and that only because of the mid-year arrival of the new volume-selling IS range that has enjoyed a 28 per cent sales increase since the new vehicle landed.

The sudden appearance of major new and sharply priced rivals in the small luxury car market in the past 12 months has dented the Lexus hybrid CT200h, sales of which are down more than 40 per cent this year.

Lexus says it has a plan to rectify that situation next year, and it is also hoping a bunch of new models, including the ES mid-sizer than lands in November, will make a difference into 2014.

Sweden’s Volvo is another luxury marque not to be making hay while the sun shines right now, with combined car and SUV sales falling nine per cent in the first nine months of 2013.

This is mainly because Volvo SUVs, especially the XC60 on which Volvo has become so reliant in recent years, have slipped a notch against newer entries, while the all-new V40 small luxury hatchback has not set the world on fire as hoped, running sixth in class.

Luxury sports car-maker Porsche is having a field day with its newly refreshed range, and has already crunched its sales record of 1380 units set before the global financial crisis, in 2007. By the end of September, Porsche sales sat at 1386 units, up 28.8 per cent on the same period of 2012.

Its new Cayman and Boxster twins have been contributors to its sales growth this year, but the Cayenne luxury SUV remains its top seller by far, on 836 units YTD.

Porsche is hoping its final tally for 2013 will be about 1800 – the best for any high-level sports car importer in Australia by a wide margin.

At Alfa Romeo, a new factory-backed importer with deeper pockets for marketing has revitalised the Italian brand in Australia, with sales leaping a whopping 136 per cent over last year when just 906 Alfisti joined the ranks.

At 1656 units in nine months, Alfa Australia has already eclipsed any Alfa annual sales tally in recent memory and should get close to 1800 units by years’ end.

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