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Business

German Cars Motor Ahead in US

German carmakers BMW and DaimlerChrysler closed the year with better than expected US sales. Compared to the previous year, the two car companies have edged closer to their US and Japanese competition.

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Porsche Cayenne takes off in the US market

While US automakers mostly spun their wheels in 2004 with lacklustre sales as competition from foreign manufacturers accelerated, two of Germany’s big car manufacturers closed the year in high gear. Although overall sales for German cars on the tough US market were down slightly from the previous year, BMW and DaimlerChrysler reported two-digit growth in sold units during December – a sign that Americans started to look beyond Japan for their car imports.

End of year pick up

BMW M6

BMW's new M6 will be powered by a 5.0-liter V10 engine and will be able to go from 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds. It hits the market in 2005.

In December, BMW reported an 18 percent increase in sales for a total of 29,292 cars sold in the United States. The end of the year boost helped the Munich-based automaker increase its annual US sales by 7 percent to 296,111 vehicles and pushed it ahead of its biggest German competitor Volkswagen.

DaimlerChrysler said Tuesday its US sales were up more than 3 percent in 2004 for 2,427,634 cars sold. The increase was largely helped by a surprise 11 percent jump in year-end sales. The German-US company is the only one of the American “Big Three” which ended the year on a positive note. For the company’s luxury Mercedes-Benz line, sales rose 23 percent in December to 26,607 – the best month ever for the nameplate.

Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet

Porsche's 2003 model of the 911 Turbo Cabriolet will get a new look in 2004.

The German sports carmaker Porsche lost speed as the year closed out and had to book a 7.2 percent loss in US sales. The company justified the decline as an example of consumer hold-out: Porsche is expected to introduce its new “Boxster” to the US in January. But thanks largely to the success of its all-terrain “Cayenne,” the Porsche company was able to maintain a positive year-long increase of 10.4 percent.

Volkswagen, which also saw a massive 19 percent increase in December sales, didn’t have enough strength to pull ahead at the end of the year and reported a 15 percent overall decline in sales compared to 2003. Audi of America also watched as 9.8 percent fewer cars were sold in the US.

A December surprise

Logo Deutsche Autos

German car brands like Mercedes, BMW, Porsche and Volkswagen pulled ahead towards the end of 2004

“The strong sales figures for foreign carmakers in December were the surprise of the month,” Joseph Barker of CSM Worldwide told Reuters. The car market analyst said the US market, which is already saturated, will continue to show strong outside competition in the coming year. New brands and models will continue to put more pressure on the existing players.

The key ones to watch are the Japanese. Nissan, Honda and the hugely popular Toyota showed large two-digit growth for December while the world’s largest automaker GM suffered losses of more than 6 percent. Ford, the second biggest US car company, also reported for the seventh consecutive month a decline in sales.

Resarch firm Autodata Corp. said the December auto figures translate to an annualized sales rate of 18.4 million units versus 17.47 million a year ago. The US is the world’s biggest car market.

Starting Jan. 9, several of the world's leading carmakers will be showcasing their latest designs at the Detroit Car Show.

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