* BMW's 128,594 July sales fall short of Audi's 131,300
* BMW leads Audi by 21,000 sales after seven months
* BMW, Porsche have double-digit sales gains in Germany
(Retools lead, adds analyst and Porsche figures)
BERLIN, Aug 8 Volkswagen's key
profit driver Audi outsold BMW in July for the third
time in seven months, but continues to trail the luxury-car
champion on the annual scorecard.
Munich-based BMW said on Thursday that sales of its core
brand rose 13.5 percent in July to 128,594 vehicles, compared
with Audi's 9.8 percent gain to 131,300.
BMW's global deliveries already fell behind Audi's in
January and April. BMW's year-to-date sales lead over Audi,
which contributed about 40 percent of VW's 3.43 billion-euro
($4.57 billion) group profit in the second quarter, eased
slightly to 21,000 cars from 24,000 after six months.
BMW's annual lead over Daimler's Mercedes-Benz
totalled 122,000 vehicles, although third-ranked Mercedes last
week reported a 20-percent surge to 116,790 cars.
Audi eclipsed Mercedes-Benz in 2011 as the world's No. 2
luxury carmaker. Audi and Mercedes are both aiming to replace
BMW in the top spot by the end of the decade.
"The three premium makers are closing ranks," said
Frankfurt-based Commerzbank analyst Sascha Gommel, accrediting
the strongest momentum to Mercedes thanks to a raft of new
models. "The battle is heating up."
Sports-car manufacturer Porsche, another VW division, said
on Thursday that global sales rose 11 percent to 13,731 autos,
powered by demand in the United States and China.
The maker of the iconic 911 model posted double-digit growth
in its German home market, just like BMW, in another sign that
Europe's No. 1 sales region may be headed for recovery.
Registrations of new cars in Germany rose 2.1 percent to
253,146 vehicles last month, the Federal Motor Transport
Authority (KBA) said on Wednesday.
($1 = 0.7508 euros)
(Reporting by Andreas Cremer; editing by Tom Pfeiffer)