The largest luxury automaker in the world finished off 2014 with a strong December month to retain its crown as the global top player for the 10th straight year, although its German rivals are inching closer.

BMW managed to deliver more cars and SUVs than Audi and Mercedes-Benz last month to remain the world’s premium segment champion, but the strategies at its following rivals are starting to pay off as both companies vie the No. 1 sales spot. BMW’s namesake brand sales climbed 14% in December to a total of 177,954 autos – building the full-year tally to a new record of 1.81 million cars, a growth of 10% over the same period in 2013. The company’s statement announcing the record deliveries pointed out that its gains primarily came from China and the United States. Germany’s top three automakers are entrenched in a bitter sales war, with ranks closing as the global situation puts pressure on all three.

Volkswagen’s luxury division Audi finished strong last month with a jump of 15% year-over-year to 150,000 autos, lifting the full year total by 11% to 1.74 million vehicles. But that wasn’t enough to post a better result than Mercedes-Benz, which soared by 17% in December to 163,171 vehicles – the second month last year it managed to beat its second-laced rival. Still, Mercedes-Benz finished the year in the third spot, held since 2011 when Audi also managed to surpass the company.

The ranks are though closing, with Munich-based BMW loosing 13% of the gap held in 2013 over Audi to just 70,000 autos, compared with 80,000 units. Audi also has its issues, with Mercedes putting pressure as the advantage dropped by a fifth to 91,000 cars from 114,000 vehicles.


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