All sectors of the auto industry are on the rise and the German manufacturers are among the many companies benefiting from an improved 2010. In the U.S. market only Toyota and Suzuki experienced flat or falling sales, with the German brands with the exception of Smart enjoying gains last year.
The Volkswagen Group led all comers, posting a 20.9 percent gain for the year. Audi led the pace, with its sales increasing by 22.9 percent, moving past Lincoln in the luxury car segment. The best selling group brand was Volkswagen which saw its sales increase by 20.3 percent.
VW will be opening up its first U.S. automotive plant in 20 years when its Chattanooga factory goes live this summer. That plant will have the capacity to build 150,000 units of its all-new midsize sedan, giving Volkswagen much needed stateside assembly capacity. VW plans to unveil that sedan at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next week.
Neither BMW nor Mercedes were able to displace Lexus as the top-selling luxury brand in America, although both came very close to dethroning Toyota’s top brand. Lexus sold 229K units, Mercedes finished with 224K models sold and BMW had 220K sales.
For the BMW Group, sales of its MINI line were flat with only a slight gain realized for 2010. The BMW brand increased by 12 percent while the uber-rich parted with their money more willingly last year as Rolls-Royce sales increased by 57 percent. Volkswagen’s Bentley, incidentally, rose by just 4.6 percent for 2010.
Daimler continues to find that success is a highway as Mercedes-Benz brand sales rose by 17.3 percent, allowing MB to move past BMW. Smart brand sales sunk with fewer than 6,000 units sold for the year. A Nissan-supplied and larger Smart model is due later this year, a much needed sedan to supplement this one-model brand.
The big news among German brands is the resurgence of Audi. VW’s luxury brand was moving up the charts in the 1980s when its own sudden-acceleration problems nearly killed the brand. It has taken 15 years for Audi to recover and that recovery appears to be taking hold. Although neither BMW nor Mercedes-Benz are in any danger of being overtaken by Audi over the next few years, the German luxe brand has plans to eventually supplant its chief rivals.