BMW is back on top as it beat Mercedes-Benz and Audi in annual global sales in 2021. So, what exactly drove it to the top spot? Here's a lowdown...
2021 wasn’t a great year for the automobile industry in general. But it wasn’t necessarily that bad for the German triumvirate of Audi, BMW, and Mercedes. You may think that the on-and-off nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, global chip shortages, and uncertainty over the future of ‘conventional’ cars would have slowed the sales of these premium/luxury marques significantly, but, surprisingly, that wasn’t the case. BMW’s global sales were up by a whopping 9.1% in 2021, whereas Audi’s annual sales numbers were down by only 0.7%. Mercedes’ sales were down by 5% in 2021, but in terms of the total number of units sold, it wasn’t a shoddy year for the three-pointed star.
BMW: Soaring to new heights
BMW shipped 2,213,795 vehicles worldwide in 2021, making it the company’s best-ever annual sales figure. More impressively, this is excluding sales of Mini and Rolls-Royce brands. If you club the numbers from these subsidiaries, BMW Group’s 2021 global sales tower at 2,521,525 units!
With more than 22 lakh units shipped to buyers worldwide, BMW pipped Mercedes-Benz to become the leading premium/luxury carmaker in terms of global sales in 2021. This is the first time since 2015 that BMW has achieved this feat.
According to BMW, BMW and Mini posted a new all-time sales high in 2021, as they registered a growth of 8.9% (846,237 units) in China. In the US, BMW and Mini sales were up by 20.8% to 336,644 units. Sales in Europe grew by 3.9% (948,087 units).
There are some key takeaways from BMW’s stellar sales. You see, it’s not just the size of grilles on their cars that’s doubling in size – according to the company, the sales of fully-electric BMWs more than doubled in 2021, as they sold 103,855 EVs last year. This marks a growth of 133.2% over EV sales for the brand in 2020! The company claims that one in every three Minis (3-door version) sold worldwide is electrified.
Not just EVs, sales of high-performance M cars also rose by 13.4% to 163,542 units, which BMW says was primarily driven by the new M3 and M4 Coupe – yes, even with those nasty pair of nostrils, these were flying off the shelf, it seems.
Last but not least, Rolls-Royce achieved its highest ever sales in history by dispatching 5,586 units (+48.7%) around the globe. So, overall, you can say that BMW had an amazing year.
Mercedes-Benz: Close but no cigar
Mercedes may not have been able to defend its crown this year, but it finished a close second. The carmaker sold 2,054,962 units worldwide, which meant that its sales were down by 5%. Mercedes pinned the blame squarely on the ongoing semiconductors shortage, as the carmaker saw its sales plunge by a whopping 24.7% in the final quarter of the year.
Region-wise, Mercedes’ sales were down by 11.2% in Europe (696,136 units) and 2% in China (758,863 units). In the US, it was marginally up (+2%) to 276,102 units. If you compare it with BMW’s sales figure, Mercedes has a lot of catching up to do, especially in China and Europe.
On the upside, Mercedes claims that sales for Mercedes-Maybach, Mercedes-AMG, and G-Class achieved new sales records in 2021. In fact, they say that Maybach branded cars are selling at the rate of 900 units per month in China! The S-Class is also selling like hot cakes in global markets, as demand for the luxo-barge rose by 40% in 2021 (87,604 units).
Like BMW, Mercedes’ EVs are doing pretty well on the sales chart. Sales of plug-in hybrid and fully-electric cars stood at 227,458 units (+69.3%), and 48,936 of these were Mercedes-EQ models, marking a growth of 154.8%.
Even though Mercedes was pipped by BMW in global sales, it’s a different story here in India. Mercedes India is still no.1 in terms of volumes, as it sold 11,242 units in 2021 as compared to BMW India’s annual sales of 8,236 units during the same period. Audi India was third with 3,293 units.
Audi: A distant third but strong showing in EV sales
Audi’s global sales dipped by 0.7% to 1,680,512 units in 2021. Like Mercedes, Audi too struggled in the fourth quarter, owing to the semiconductor shortage, and its sales declined by 34.2%.
In China, Audi ended 2021 with 701,286 units delivered, marking a negative growth of 3.6%. Sales were down in Europe, too – the four-ringed carmaker sold a total of 617,048 units, which represents a dip of 0.4%. In the US, though, Audi registered a growth of 5%, as it sold 196,038 units.
While Audi ended behind BMW and Mercedes in total numbers, it registered a strong presence on the EV sales chart in 2021. The company sold 81,894 fully-electric vehicles in 2021, which is a 57.5% increase over its EV sales in 2020. This also means that in the EV race, it’s much closer to BMW and quite ahead of Mercedes at the moment. Audi says that the EV sales were primarily driven by the Q4 e-tron and the Q4 Sportback e-tron. Sales of Audi Sport models also increased by 34.2% in 2021, as 39,356 units of the RS and S cars were dispatched to markets worldwide.