(Yicai Global) July 24 -- Audi AG [FWB:NSU] has remained the best-selling luxury car brand in China, but two other leading German carmakers, Bayerische Motoren Werke AG [FWB:BMW] and Mercedes Benz, are poised to overtake Audi in the world's largest automobile market.
Most Chinese dealers eased off the gas in pushing Audi products following a dispute surrounding a partnership between the German automobile producer and Shanghai-based SAIC Motor Corp. [SHA:600104], International Finance News reported today. This caused Audi's first-half sales to rapidly decline, which has not happened in more than 20 years.
Mercedes (including the Smart division) sold 304,017 cars from January to June, a 34-percent annual increase. BMW logged 293,280 units in total sales, up 18.4 percent. Audi's sales dropped by 12.2 percent to 253,635, ranking it number three for the first time among mainstream luxury vehicle brands. It was the only luxury brand to register negative sales growth in the period.
Audi's sales rebounded to 51,651 units last month, compared with Mercedes' 52,116 and BMW's 50,597. As Mercedes Benz's sales figure includes 2,026 cars sold under the Smart marque, Audi has retaken the top position for a single luxury brand by sales.
Mercedes' products are new models and are very competitive. BMW's flagship 5 Series has been completely upgraded, making it a strong challenger in the second half. Audi will work to hold its own after reviving sales last month, but it is no longer the 'superpower' it once was and the race between the three major players is set to be a close one.