Audi sold fewer cars than rival Mercedes-Benz for the first time this year in the latest sign that the sales rivalry among Germany's top luxury automakers is intensifying.
Deliveries at Volkswagen's flagship division rose 6.4 per cent to 159,950 cars and sport-utility vehicles, the company said on Thursday, the best-ever September result for Audi but still falling short of its competitor.
Mercedes-Benz sold 162,746 models, the best-ever month for sales in its 88-year history and a 14 per cent gain on year-ago levels, benefiting from the release of new models and surging demand in China.
Audi, which eclipsed Mercedes-Benz in 2011 to become the world's No. 2 premium automaker behind BMW, has seen its sales lead over the Daimler division shrink to 103,494 cars after nine months, compared with 118,110 a year ago.
While Mercedes-Benz is enjoying strong demand for a spate of redesigned models, including the E-Class and the flagship S-Class saloon, Audi has pushed planned overhauls of its top-selling A4 model and the Q7 SUV into 2015. "Mercedes will catch up further with BMW and Audi in coming months, they simply got the freshest product line-up," said Frankfurt-based Commerzbank analyst Sascha Gommel.
Still, Audi has a goal of boosting full-year sales to above 1.7 million vehicles from last year's record 1.58 million, relying on momentum in China and EurSTATope where it leads the premium segment.
Mercedes-Benz has a goal of pushing brand deliveries above last year's record 1.46 million cars. Both brands are vying to snatch the global luxury-sales crown from BMW by the end of the decade.
The Munich-based manufacturer, whose eight-month brand deliveries were up 9.5 per cent to 1.15 million cars, is also expected to publish September sales this week.