Right royal auto barney
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.”