Audi India is catching up fast on BMW, relegates Mercedes-Benz to third spot

The search really begins and ends with Germany if you are in the market looking out for a luxury car. Though marques like Lexus, Infiniti, Acura, Jaguar and Volvo are trying their best to topple the German trio, it is still BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz that are ruling the roost across continents in the upper end of the automotive spectrum. The situation is no different in India as well. While Mercedes-Benz has been the front-runner in the Indian market enjoying a monopoly for more than a decade and half, the arrival of arch rivals BMW and Audi changed the Indian luxury-car landscape once and for all. In just its second year in India, BMW toppled Mercedes-Benz from the top with a sort of determination and aggression that we rarely get to witness. It looked as if BMW could do no wrong and every model that the company launched met with a tremendous response in the market.

The transformation was too quick for Mercedes-Benz to react and, all of a sudden, BMW became the 'in thing' for the affluent youth, sort of 'iPhone equivalent' in cars. While all these were happening in 2009, folks from Ingolstadt silently entered the fray. They were far behind in the number game at that point of time that nobody realized the threat brewing up from Audi. Sitting in 2012, it is now Audi which is having the last laugh as it threatens to displace BMW as the top-selling luxury brand in India that the latter started enjoying just 3 years back. For both these brands, it is their compact Sports Utility Vehicles (or should we call them 'crossovers') that is doing the trick. If X1 worked wonders for BMW, the Q3 is now doing the same trick for Audi. Buoyed by the market reaction, Audi has now openly stated that it will become 'numero uno' in India in 2014 itself against it's initial target of 2015.

Again, just like Mercedes-Benz then, BMW wouldn't have realized that Audi could play catch up so quickly and will now be determined to fend them off. And their arsenal is all fired up and ready. The new 3 Series, proclaimed by many international automotive journalists as 'the best driver's car in the world', is coming very soon to make life tougher for the A4 and C-Class. Audi will be hoping that the initial euphoria and success of the Q3 will sustain for long and help them sail through until the high-volume A3 sedan is up and ready by 2014. So, with Audi and BMW slugging it out for the top spot, where does this leave Mercedes-Benz? As the company rightly pointed out, it is really the absence of a compact SUV to go against X1 and Q3 that is hurting their sales. It isn't surprising then that they are pinning all their hopes on the upcoming B-Class Sports Tourer and the A-Class hatchback to move into the lead again.

While this battle is interesting to watch, it is not Audi or BMW or Mercedes-Benz that has won or lost. It is you and me, the existing and prospective customers and the people of India who have really won big-time. Just as we predicted the course of this German battle a couple of years ago, we will be here again to tell you whats hot and whats not as this inter-German rivalry reaches a supersonic phase in the next couple of years. Stay tuned to Anything On Wheels!

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