No matter how you frame the numbers, things are looking great for the German automakers.
This past 2017, cars with a Blue and White roundel made progress in the war against arch-rival Mercedes-Benz, but by the time the New Year’s bells welcomed 2018 the Stuttgart-based automaker known by its Silver Star emblems had still beat the Bavarians by a slim margin. Thanks to China’s increasing appetite for luxury vehicles as well as an offensive product strategy aimed at recapturing the crown, Mercedes ended the year as the world’s most successful premium auto brand. BMW headquarters, however, has a different way of looking at things.
It claims that by zooming out to look at sales for the BMW Group as a whole, not just subsidiary BMW, it’s the Bavarians that beat Mercedes’ parent company Daimler in terms of total sales. At year’s end, the BMW Group had sold 2,463,526 vehicles in 2017 while Daimler moved 2,424,369 units during the same time period, a difference of just 39,157 cars, trucks, and commercial vehicles. While that makes it sound like BMW takes the W in this round, it’s important to remember that when the margins are this close, numbers manipulation is sort of arbitrary. For one, Daimler’s only major car company is Mercedes-Benz, though under that wing rests Maybach, the new EQ subdivision, and AMG.
On the other hand BMW Group can claim ownership of BMW, Rolls-Royce, and Mini, with the latter subsidiary contributing a significant amount of sales given that it’s just come off of its best ever sales year. And then there’s Audi, which is rated by itself in BMW's view of the premium luxury segment. If BMW is looking at group sales of premium cars, it could justifiably account for Audi's siblings by Volkswagen ownership, Porsche, Lamborghini, Bentley, and Bugatti. Skepticism aside, BMW’s continual rise is something to be aware of. For the seventh consecutive year, the group hit a new sales record, aided in no small part by China and a well-stocked portfolio of premium SUVs.
Mercedes and Audi are hitting back hard with crossovers, EVs, and performance models to stay competitive, but BMW seems to be losing no momentum thanks to its own deck of equivalent models. Grab the popcorn because this is turning into a true clash of the titans.