The Audi Q5 SUV at left and the Audi Q7 sitting in the showroom of Audi South Delhi. Audi has overtaken BMW for the first time to be the leading luxury car brand in India. Photographed in New Delhi, India, on Wednesday, May 15, 2013. *** Graham Crouch/Bloomberg *** Local Caption ***

Frankfurt - Audi delivered more cars than BMW’s namesake brand in the first two months of the year to nab the lead in luxury car sales.

Worldwide, Audi sold 242 400 vehicles in January and February, 383 more than the BMW brand. At the same time a year ago, Audi trailed BMW, which has led the segment for nine consecutive years, by 429 units.

Audi, a brand of Volkswagen (VW), has never held the top position for a full year. It will introduce 17 new or revamped models this year, including the TT sports car. The roll-outs are part of a plan to invest e22 billion (R328bn) over five years with the intention of becoming the top seller among luxury car brands on a full-year basis.

“We will increase deliveries in all regions of the world, including Europe,” chief executive Rupert Stadler said at Audi’s headquarters in Ingolstadt, Germany, yesterday.

Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz, which is third globally in premium vehicle sales, is narrowing the gap with its two main rivals as the sales battle between the three intensifies.

Mercedes deliveries in the first two months surged 17 percent year on year, propelled by demand for the CLA coupé and updated flagship S-Class sedan.

All three forecast record sales this year and vowed to hold the top sales position at the end of the decade.

Audi’s sales were lifted last month by a 43 percent jump in demand for the A3 and 32 percent growth in deliveries of the Q7 sport utility vehicle (SUV). Worldwide, the VW division sold 9.3 percent more cars in the first two months of the year, while BMW’s sales increased 8.9 percent.

“Both BMW and Audi will face increasing competition from Mercedes this year,” Daniel Schwarz, a Frankfurt-based analyst at Commerzbank, said.

BMW forecast last week that group-wide sales, including the Mini and Rolls Royce brands, would exceed 2 million vehicles this year for the first time. It expected to make up ground on Audi in the coming months as it rolled out the remake of the X5 SUV and new models such as the 2-Series Active Tourer and 4-Series Gran Coupé.

Those models are likely to help BMW retain the lead in global luxury vehicle sales this year. IHS Automotive estimates BMW will sell 1.77 million vehicles, beating Audi’s 1.66 million and Mercedes’s 1.56 million.

Daimler boss Dieter Zetsche is rolling out 13 new vehicles, including a dozen with no predecessor, by the end of the decade to regain momentum. Vehicles coming to market this year include the GLA compact SUV, the S-Class coupé and the revamped C-Class. – Bloomberg