Right royal auto bar­ney

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Showroom - PAUL GOVER CHIEF RE­PORTER paul.gover@cars­guide.com.au

AUS­TRALIANS have been brought up on the no­tion of au­to­mo­tive ri­valry be­ing all about Ford against Holden.

But what about BMW and Benz, who have raged a right royal bat­tle for supremacy in Aus­tralia in re­cent years that’s now con­clu­sively in favour of the world’s old­est car maker? That’s Mercedes-Benz, in case you didn’t know.

BMW only won two class con­tests last year, us­ing its all­new X5 to trump its ri­val’s ML and chauf­feur­ing its 7 Se­ries flag­ship to a four unit win over the Mercedes S-Class in its runout year.

BMW Aus­tralia hap­pily re­ports an 11.5 per cent lift in sales through 2013, against an over­all in­dus­try im­prove­ment of just 2.2 per cent, but Mercedes-Benz im­proved its sales by 25 per cent and even Audi was up by 10.1 per cent.

Jaguar did best of the lux­ury brands, bank­ing a 40.6 per cent rocket boost thanks to ev­ery­thing from the lat­est diesel-pow­ered XJ flag­ship to early sales for its great new FType sports car.

But back to BMW, which seems to be so busy find­ing and friend­ing new cus­tomers — from monster Mini mod­els at one end to the butt-ugly X6 cross­over at the other — that it’s for­got about ex­cel­lence in its main­stream mod­els, es­pe­cially the 3 Se­ries. It’s been a loser in Cars­guide con­tests and does best as a ba­sic 316i with noth­ing added.

It was less than five years ago BMW Aus­tralia re­acted an­grily to Cars­guide re­ports it had been over­taken by Mercedes-Benz in Aus­tralia, a num­bers dis­pute that went all the way to the two com­pa­nies’ head of­fices in Ger­many. Now BMW says it is more than happy with its re­sults last year and re­ports an 18 per cent month-on-month im­prove­ment in Jan­uary.

“That’s our best re­sult ever and we’re ex­tremely pleased. It is a very sus­tain­able in­crease. Sus­tain­abil­ity is a key for us,” says com­pany spokes­woman Lenore Fletcher. “We’re in the mid­dle of a very busy prod­uct up­date cy­cle and that will con­tinue agains this year.”

Even Benz is down­play­ing the ri­valry as it looks to drive its sales growth with smaller and more-af­ford­able cars.

“We have tra­di­tional com­peti­tors, Audi and BMW, but we see it a lit­tle dif­fer­ently. There are 50 mar­ques sell­ing pas­sen­ger and SUV ve­hi­cles in Aus­tralia and al­most all of them are com­peti­tors in some way,” says Benz spokesman David McCarthy. “The cus­tomer is no longer look­ing specif­i­cally at a brand. They are ac­tu­ally look­ing at a ve­hi­cle so­lu­tion. In com­pact cars there are our tra­di­tional com­peti­tors, but there are other com­peti­tors such as the Volkswagen Golf and Mazda3.”

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