BMW sales rise but China growth keeps Mercedes ahead

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[June 10, 2016]  BERLIN (Reuters) - BMW delivered more brand vehicles in May on strong demand for sport-utility vehicles and its flagship 7-Series saloon but slipped behind luxury rival Mercedes-Benz, which keeps thriving on record momentum in China.

Sales of BMW brand models rose 5.6 percent last month to 168,129 cars and SUVs, with registrations in China up 7.5 percent to 37,487 cars, the automaker said on Friday.

Daimler's premium passenger-cars division on Monday said its global sales jumped 13 percent to a record 170,625 models, thanks to strong compact-car and SUV demand, with China alone posting record growth of 39 percent.

Volkswagen's Audi, which dropped behind Mercedes in global luxury vehicle sales last year for the first time since 2010, increased May deliveries 6.7 percent to 164,150 cars, extending its year-to-date sales by 5.3 percent.

Sales of Audi models in China, where the VW luxury division has for years been premium market leader, rose no more than 5.5 percent, it said on Thursday.

BMW's sales gain in May, also helped by a double-digit increase in Europe, is keeping the manufacturer on course for profitable sales growth this year, the company said on Friday.

But the Munich-based group may struggle to retain the luxury sales crown it has held since 2005 this year, lagging behind Mercedes with five-month sales of 797,457 cars versus 818,175 autos for the Stuttgart-based rival.

(Reporting by Andreas Cremer; Editing by Georgina Prodhan)

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