German carmaker Audi is picking up pace in the global race for market share in the premium sector. Experts predict the VW subsidiary will outsell its rival Mercedes around the world in 2010.
Chinese car buyers have taken a special shine to Audi
If the experts at the University of Duisburg's Center of Automotive Research (CAR) are right, the German luxury car market will see a considerable shake-up next year, with Audi selling more cars worldwide than Mercedes for the first time ever.
In a study published on Monday, the center's director, Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, predicted that Munich-based BMW will continue to lead the pack in 2010, with VW-subsidiary Audi in second place, and Stuttgart-based Mercedes-Benz in third.
Back in 2002 Mercedes' global sales were more than 30 percent higher than Audi's. This year the gap appears to have been whittled down to just 3 percent: Mercedes is expected to sell 965,000 cars in 2009 compared to Audi's 935,000.
Dudenhoeffer says Audi's solid footing in the Chinese market, where demand for premium German cars is surging, will see it overtake Mercedes next year.
Mercedes needs to cut costs, the study says
Too big, too expensive
The study argues that Mercedes is being held back by a number of problems, including its continued high production costs and lagging development of new models.
While BMW recently launched its new XI compact SUV model and Audi says its equivalent Q3 will be available in 2011, Mercedes is only planning to release its answer to the compact SUV trend in 2013.
"Mercedes has to reinvent itself faster if it doesn't want to fall further behind its competitors Audi and BMW," the study concluded.
Its authors also criticized Mercedes for failing to reduce costs by cooperating with other manufacturers. In comparison, Audi - which is able to use components and platforms from its parent company Volkswagen - has a huge competitive advantage, the study said.
"Mercedes has far too many workers and does too much on its own," Dudenhoeffer concluded.
Editor: Sam Edmonds