Originally Posted by [b
09.07.2004. BMW sales overtake Mercedes
BMW has taken pole position in the luxury car market for the first time in seven years, beating German rival Mercedes in global sales for the first six months of 2004.
BMW, owner of Mini and Rolls-Royce, outsold the Mercedes Car Group, which includes the Smart and Maybach marques, by 6,183 cars in the first half.
The BMW brand also outsold Mercedes-Benz badged cars in May and June, although the Mercedes brand stayed ahead in the six-month period.
BMW's success in snatching the sales lead reflects an aggressive programme of new model development that has seen the Munich company fill in gaps in its model line-up, including the recent X3 small offroader and 6-Series coup&#1081;.
It comes as Mercedes, part of DaimlerChrysler, tries to persuade unions to accept wage cuts in order to reach BMW's higher level of profitability.
Daimler is also searching for a new head for Mercedes after workers' representatives forced the ejection of Wolfgang Bernhard, an efficiency specialist from Chrysler, shortly before he was due to start the job.
"There is a question about whether or not Mercedes can actually close the gap with BMW in terms of return," said Keith Hayes, motor industry analyst at Goldman Sachs.
In the six months to June, BMW group sales rose 8.5 per cent to 590,983 cars, while Mercedes group saw a decline of 3.3 per cent to 584,800.
BMW said profits were more important to it than its sales ranking.
But Mercedes said: "We want to be the No1 premium brand on a long-term perspective. It will be completely different next year and we will have increases again."
Mercedes predicts a recovery later this year as the redesigned A-Class and new Smart four-seater rekindle the interest of drivers, and expects sales to be about 50,000 higher than last year's 1.3m.
Michael Ganal, director of sales and marketing at BMW, forecast "significant" growth for the rest of the year.
"With the 1 Series [small car] we will make a powerful entry into the compact class as of September with a clearly profiled premium offer," he said.
JD Power-LMC, the market analyst, predicts that Mercedes will take back the top slot in the full year and increase its lead next year when more models are updated.
It forecasts a 17 per cent jump in Mercedes Car Group sales next year to 1.56m, more than a quarter higher than BMW's expected 1.22m.
Financial Times & Maybach.ru