US, China sales push Germany’s high-end carmakers BMW, Audi, and Mercedes to record year

FRANKFURT – Germany’s luxury carmakers had a record year in 2014 thanks to expanding sales in the United States and China.

Munich-based BMW kept hold of first place, selling 1.81 million vehicles worldwide in 2014 — an increase of 9.5 per cent over 2013.

That put it ahead of Volkswagen AG’s Audi brand, which increased sales by 10.5 per cent to 1.74 million. Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz came in third with 1.65 million, up 12.9 per cent.

BMW AG marketing chief Ian Robertson said Friday the company was able to increase sales in all important regions thanks to strong demand for new models such as the X4, the 2-Series Active Tourer and the electric i3, which uses advanced carbon-fiber materials to save weight.

At Mercedes, China overtook Germany as the brand’s second-largest market behind the U.S. Sales in China rose 29.1 per cent to 281,588 vehicles.

The auto industry is a pillar of Germany’s export-focused economy, helping to drive unemployment down to only 5.0 per cent. That is well below the figure of 11.5 per cent for the euro currency union as a whole.