Automotive Blog

BMW posts record January but still lags behind Mercedes-Benz




BMW's sales results were strong during the first month of 2017, although the company fell further behind its chief rival.

IHS Markit Perspective:

  • Significance: BMW Group made the best ever start to a year in January with a 6.8% year-on-year (y/y) increase in global sales to 163,288 units, according to a company press release.
  • Implications: The BMW brand posted a 7.2% y/y increase to 143,553 units last month, although this lagged considerably behind sales of the Mercedes-Benz brand, which posted a rise of 18.3% y/y to 178,467 units.
  • Outlook: Although premium carmakers have continued to enjoy strong growth at the beginning of 2017, these latest results clearly appear to confirm the forecast that Mercedes-Benz will maintain the lead it won from BMW in 2016 in the medium term at least.

The BMW Group posted record sales in January, with combined group global volumes rising by 6.8% year on year (y/y) to 163,288 units, according to a company press release. BMW-brand sales rose by 7.2% y/y during the month to 143,553 units, while Mini sales increased by 3.7% y/y to 19,563 units. Commenting on the company's January sales results, BMW Group's board member for sales and marketing Ian Robertson said, "We've started the year well, building on the success of 2016. We're confident that the new models we're bringing to market this year, especially the new generation BMW 5 Series which is about to arrive in dealerships, will ensure further momentum as the year goes on. We continue to focus on profitability and sustainable levels of growth distributed around the world." BMW-brand sales benefited last month from ongoing very strong sales of the X1 model, which posted an increase of 40.2% y/y in January to 20,059 units, while the 3-Series also posted a strong result on the back of its relatively recent facelift, with a 6.3% y/y rise to 28,684 units.

Combined BMW Group sales were up 3.5% y/y in Europe to 63,915 units during January, and it posted positive results in almost all markets in this region. In Germany, its sales rose by 17.2% y/y to 20,034 units, while volumes in the UK and France grew by 4.9% and 5.4% y/y, respectively. Sales in Asia increased by 12.1% y/y to 66,719 units, of which 51,345 units came in China, which itself represented an increase of 18.2% y/y. BMW and Mini sales in the Americas were stable, with a 0.5% y/y decline in the United States to 21,219 units, while sales in Canada rose by 2.5% y/y to 2,337 units. However, BMW-brand sales lagged behind those of its chief rival Mercedes-Benz in January. The latter enjoyed highly accelerated growth at the start of the year with an 18.3% y/y rise in global sales to 178,467 units during January, according to a company statement. This growth for Mercedes was fuelled by an extremely successful month in China, where it enjoyed by far its best-ever sales month with a 39.3% y/y increase to 58,799 units. This remarkably strong performance was fuelled by all of the company's key model offerings in the country and was 12,000 units higher than Mercedes' previous record month in the world's biggest passenger car market.

Outlook and implications

Although BMW enjoyed a record January for sales, it fell further behind its main rival Mercedes-Benz after the latter supplanted BMW as the world's biggest-selling passenger car brand in 2016. Mercedes-Benz's 2016 sales performance benefited from a number of key new models, including the all-new GLA-Class and the new E-Class, while the C-Class and the company's compact car range continued to sell very well indeed across all of the company's main global markets. In contrast, many of BMW's key models, including the 5-Series and some of its X models, including the X3, were either reaching the end of their current model cycle or were well into the second half of their lifespans in 2016. The new 5-Series is currently being rolled out and will boost BMW's sales as the year progresses, but this will not be enough to halt the momentum at Mercedes-Benz. Mercedes' sport utility vehicle (SUV) range continued to enjoy strong demand in January, garnering sales of 65,004, a new sales record for the first month of the year and up 20.5% y/y. This year, there should be additional sales impetus for Mercedes from the revised GLA-Class. For the full year, IHS Automotive forecasts sales of Mercedes-Benz-brand passenger cars at 2.10 million units, with BMW falling further behind with sales of 1.98 million units.

About this article

The above article is from IHS Automotive Same-Day Analysis of automotive news, events and trends, and is a deliverable of the World Markets Automotive Service. The service averages thirty stories per day and also provides competitor and country intelligence. Get a free trial.

About The Author

Principal Analyst, IHS Automotive

Mr. Tim Urquhart is a Principal Analyst at IHS Automotive. He has nearly 10 years of experience as an automotive industry analyst.

Prior to joining the company in 2005, he gained extensive experience in the field of motorsport journalism as editor of ITV's Formula One website and British American Racing's official website, as well as writing extensively on the commercial side of the sport during his tenure as staff writer for Business F1 magazine. Having worked as an editor for JATO Dynamics on its automotive news product, he has extensive experience of the wider automotive industry. Mr. Urquhart attended the University of Leicester, Leicester, England, where he attained a Bachelor of Arts in English and Psychology. He also has a postgraduate journalism qualification from Sheffield College, Sheffield, England.​