Audi is likely to overtake BMW as the UK’s biggest premium carmaker within five years, according to the country’s leading expert on the motor industry, professor Garel Rhys.
BMW has been the top-selling premium marque in the UK for 28 years, but Audi saw sales rocket 18% in 2007 to break through the 100,000 barrier for the first time.
BMW’s sales increased by 5% to 121,575 last year, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, compared to Audi’s 100,864. But Rhys, director of the Institute of Automotive Industry Research, predicts that if present trends continue, Audi will become the market leader by 2012.
He says: “It’s a big ‘if’, but Audi has a very realistic plan. There will be a whole new segment of buyers who prefer Audis to BMWs.
“Audi seems incapable of making mistakes at the moment. If I was BMW, I would be thinking that they could overtake us and that we had better take action to stop that happening.”
Audi now outsells BMW in 11 out of 25 European markets, and is close to overtaking its rival in their home market of Germany.
But Audi has not been ahead in the UK since 1979, when it sold 16,227 cars, compared to BMW’s 14,058. The third heavyweight in the premium sector, Mercedes-Benz, has never outsold BMW in the UK, although it came within 200 units of leapfrogging its confirmed rival in 2003.
Rhys adds: “There is no doubt that Audi is the new kid on the block and is closing on BMW. Munich is alarmed.”