Mercedes On the Third Place in the Luxury-Sales Race image

Mercedes-Benz is losing ground in the battle with BMW and Audi for the first place in global luxury car-sales.

Mercedes remains on the third place, affected by sluggish sales of the entry-level models, the disjointed strategy in China, and the aging S-class sedan. The gap between Mercedes and Audi has more than doubled this year. In the first nine months of the year Mercedes sold 964,900 cars and SUVs worldwide, up 5%, but not enough to keep up with rivals Audi 132,600 vehicles and BMW 145,000 units.

“Mercedes’s problems are home-made problems,” said Christian Ludwig, an analyst with Bankhaus Lampe in Dusseldorf. “It’s going to be extremely difficult for Mercedes to reach the No. 1 spot. The others are not sleeping.”

If September 2011 was the month when Mercedes celebrated its 125th anniversary and Zetsche was setting the target to make the automaker the no.1 luxury-car brand by 2020, this September Zetsche announced that the automaker’s earnings will fall below the last year’s figure. In 2005 Mercedes has lost the first place to BMW and since then the automaker has been struggling to get it back.

Through the year Mercedes’ sales have increased 19% compared with BMW’s 31% and its stock increased 12% in the past year compared with BMW’s 18% gain.