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Sales: Audi / BMW / M-B

In a message dated 98-01-16 12:48:13 EST, someone erroniously wrote:

<< For 1996 world-wide sales figures for luxury brands were:
 #1 -- BMW -- a tick over half-a-mil
 #2 -- MB -- a tick under half-a-mil
 #3 --Audi -- a tick under MB
 Source: Automotive Industries Mag.
 Now, given that both MB and BMW heavily depend on the US market
 (methinks for no less than 40% of sales), one skilled in arithmetic
 could see that Audi actually outsells it's oldest rivals in the rest of
 the world. The rest of the world seems to have more appreciation for
 fine cars and according to the sales figures chooses Audi over MB and
 BMW. >>

Sorry for the cold shower, but some of those numbers, and therefore the
conclusions, are a bit fishy.  The real numbers for 1996 would put Audi at a
bit under 500,000, and BMW and M-B at on the plus and minus sides of 650,000,

Here is a bit of a correction, using up-to-date figures, plus a reality-based
look at the "40% solution," and some future perspective.  Figures for 1997
were supplied by the various manufacturers at press conferences held during
the just-concluded North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Past
sales data to effect the calculations come from The 1997 Automotive News
Market Data Book and the manufacturers involved.  Calculations and projections
come from a noted industry consultant.

    1997 Worldwide and U.S. Sales Figures
o  Mercedes-Benz: 715,000 worldwide (+11%).
                            122,265  in the U.S (+35%).
                            (including ML320)
o  BMW:  675,000 worldwide (+4%) 
               122,467  in the U.S. (+16%)
               (does not include Rover vehicles)
o  Audi: 556,000 worldwide (+14%) 
              34,160  in the U.S. (+25%)

The U.S. market currently accounts for between 6% (Audi), 17% (Mercedes-Benz)
and 18% (BMW) for these companies.  It is worth noting that Audi handily
outsold BMW in Germany in 1997 (a reversal of the 1996 situation) but still
trailed M-B by a bit.

It's also important to note that Audi was severely capacity-limited last year,
and will be for at least another year.  However, it is unlikely that Audi
could overtake either BMW or M-B, in the near term, even if sufficient
capacity were available.

In 1998, one should expect M-B to grow to well over 800,000 due, in large
part, to resumption of deliveries of the not-quite-ready-for-prime-time A-
Class. These begin again in February and could reach 200,000 annually, if they
don't fall over again. Accounting for some substitution losses among the C-
Class and less than full capacity utilization for the A-Class in the 1998
calendar year still makes the 800,000+ figure look reasonable.

BMW launches the new 3-Series sedans in Geneva in March, so expect a big sales
push from them, as well.  Holding down their total volume potential will be
anticipated slow demand for the left-over/carry-over 3-Series coupes, compacts
and convertibles. These won't be introduced in the new generation until late
in the 1998 calendar year or 1999.  I should expect that the 5-series will
also meet more resistance in many markets as it ages.

Audi has no big (volume) product launches in the coming year, save for the TT.
That, however, is a niche car and capacity constrained to about 30,000 per
year.  It's unlikely that Audi can exceed the 1997 volume by very much in

So... Don't look for a new world order in 1998.