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Mercedes-Benz widens lead over BMW as E-Class, SUVs boost sales

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Mercedes-Benz widened its global luxury-car sales lead in the first half of the year, dealing a setback to BMW AG chief executive officer's Harald Krueger's effort to restore his company to the segment's top spot.

[MUNICH] Mercedes-Benz widened its global luxury-car sales lead in the first half of the year, dealing a setback to BMW AG chief executive officer's Harald Krueger's effort to restore his company to the segment's top spot.

BMW sold 106,244 fewer vehicles in the period than its Stuttgart, Germany-based rival, versus a difference of 89,818 cars in the five months through May, according to statements from the carmakers. The 14 per cent delivery jump reported by Daimler AG's Mercedes brand was more than double the BMW marque's 5.2 per cent. Audi, which on Tuesday unveiled the newest version of its flagship A8 sedan with an autonomous highway-driving feature, has posted a sales decline this year.

Even though BMW says it's putting profit before volume, Mr Krueger reiterated last month that he wants to win back the luxury lead that he lost to Mercedes last year.

Mercedes overtook BMW for the first time in more than a decade with a fresh lineup and some all-new models, including the GLC coupe, that have attracted younger buyers. That contrasts with BMW's emphasis on careful styling overhauls.

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The competitors are also diverging on how to master the industry's costly shift to electric autos. BMW, an early proponent with its i3 city car in 2013, has slowed efforts following a tepid consumer reception to electric powering systems.

It plans to add battery packs to existing models like the X3 sport utility vehicle and will wait until 2021 before adding the iNext, which will also have extensive autonomous driving features, as its second standalone fully electric model.

Mercedes has scheduled to put out its EQ battery-powered SUV in 2019.

Mercedes's first-half deliveries amounted to 1.14 million cars compared with BMW's 1.04 million. Sales of the Mercedes E-Class sedan, which was revamped last year, surged 68 per cent from a year earlier, while demand for the marque's SUVs gained 13 per cent.

BMW's X1 SUV model was its biggest sales growth driver in the period. Volkswagen AG's Audi division, the world's third-largest luxury-car producer, sold 908,950 vehicles in the period, a 4.7 per cent drop, after sales in China, its biggest market, plunged 12 per cent amid a dealers dispute and the brand's image suffers from the VW group's diesel crisis.

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