BMW gains but Mercedes still leads

BMW reported record sales last year, on strong demand for its sport-utility vehicles and the overhauled 1-Series compact, writes Andreas Cremer.

But they were outsold by Mercedes-Benz, keeping the order in the three-way, German luxury car-sales race unchanged.

BMW X3, one of the SUVs in the German manufacturer’s range that has helped it grow sales by 4.2% last year.

Sales of BMW models rose 4.2% in 2017, to 2.09m passenger cars and SUVs, the Munich-based carmaker said, compared with a 9.9% gain, to 2.29m, at Mercedes, which claimed the top spot in global luxury-car-sales rankings for a second year.

Registrations at Volkswagen’s Audi premium division edged up 0.6%, to a record 1.88m cars, it said, benefiting from a 34% December surge in China, the brand’s largest market.

BMW, which had kept the global luxury sales crown for about a decade, before slipping behind Mercedes in 2016, said deliveries were fuelled by a 9.6% gain for its SUV lineup and a 15% increase for the 1-Series.

“I‘m confident BMW sales will continue to grow during 2018, while we also maintain our focus on profitability,” said new sales chief, Pieter Nota, who replaced Ian Robertson this month.

BMW posted a 9.5% gain in December registrations, to 195,916 vehicles, narrowly beating Mercedes and Audi, whose sales came in at 193,534 and 180,250 cars, respectively. Audi said sales in December were up 3% in Europe; increased 16.3% in the US; climbed by 34.3% in China; and rose by 6.6% in Germany.

Meanwhile, General Motors said it is seeking US government approval for a fully autonomous car — one without a steering wheel, brake pedal, or accelerator pedal — to enter the automaker’s first commercial ride-sharing fleet in 2019.

For passengers who cannot open doors, the Cruise AV — a rebranded version of GM’s Chevrolet Bolt EV — has even been designed to perform that task.

It will have other accommodations for hearing and visually impaired customers. This will be one of the first self-driving vehicles in commercial passenger service, and among the first to do away with manual controls for steering, brakes, and throttle.

The driver’s seat in the Bolt EV will become the front left passenger seat in the Cruise AV, GM said.

Company president, Dan Ammann, told reporters that GM had filed for government approval to deploy the “first production-ready vehicle designed from the start without a steering wheel, pedals, or other unnecessary manual controls”.

- Reuters

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