Luxury No Defense Against Weak Market, But Germans Cautiously Optimistic

June 9, 2009

Hyper-luxury European car brands like Rolls-Royce are seeing steady sales, but their more attainable counterparts - BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz - are still riding a downward slope through May. But all is not yet lost, as there may be an end in sight.

BMW's Ian Robertson, the company's board member in charge of sales and marketing, says that May's sales drop of 18% is a good sign. "Sales decreased much more slowly in May than in recent months," he said in a statement. "Overall, I am cautiously optimistic that our global sales figures will continue to improve over the course of the year."

Audi and Mercedes-Benz are also down less in May than through the first part of the year, with Audi losing 6% in sales against 2008 and Mercedes falling 12%, compared to year-to-date shortfalls of 12% and 22%, respectively.

Does this mean that the industry - or at least the luxury segment - is nearing the bottom of the trough, and an upswing is in sight? Or is it merely a blip on the continued sales tailspin?

Only time will tell, but in the meantime, Audi will be taking the industry as it comes - despite the overall decrease in sales, Audi is seeing a rise in market share, drawing to within 4,000 units of Mercedes-Benz production and within 8,000 of BMW in May.

[The Wall Street Journal]

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