German premium trio lures mainstream clients in the US image

Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW are rolling out cheaper models in the U.S. to woo customers from mass-market rivals like GM or Ford.

Audi, which will present the A3 sedan at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next week, will offer the car for $29,900 when it goes on sale in the spring. That would match the price of the Mercedes CLA sedan, which has been on sale since September, as the German brands push models that cost less than half their flagship cars.

Germany’s high-end carmakers are increasingly vying with mainstream competitors for buyers of models such as the $26,780 Ford Taurus and $30,545 Chrysler 300. Their aim is to lure a broader base of customers and keep them loyal as the companies target global sales records.

Mercedes’s push with the CLA helped the Daimler AG unit grab the lead in US luxury-car deliveries in 2013, beating out BMW and Toyota’s Lexus for the first time in more than a decade. BMW will introduce the $33,025 2-Series coupe in the first quarter in its bid to lock in new customers.

The down-market shift replicates the German carmakers’ approach in their home market. Mercedes, Audi and BMW are only outsold by Volkswagen AG’s namesake brand in Germany as affordable models such as the Mercedes A-Class hatchback and Audi A1 subcompact, which aren’t offered in the U.S., broaden their appeal to less-affluent buyers.

Upscale brands account for 31 % of the German car market, compared with 19 % in the US, according to consultancy IHS Automotive. Backed by expanded lineups, these brands will probably grow 24 % in the US by 2018, compared with a 6.7 % gain for the total market.

Via Bloomberg