By Victoria Waldersee
BERLIN (Reuters) - Premium brands BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi navigated last year's automotive supply chain challenges better than the mass-market Volkswagen brand, company data showed on Tuesday.
Though the fourth quarter provided universal relief for the carmakers, China's extensive lockdowns early in the year were particularly hard on sales volumes.
Mercedes-Benz recorded the lowest fall in full-year output at 1%, pulled down by the Chinese market, according to a trading update by the luxury carmaker.
Audi's deliveries fell 3.9% to 1.61 million, with Europe the only region to register marginal growth after an 18.7% jump in German sales.
In China, the high-end brand sold 8.4% fewer cars than last year and all-electric sales rose by only 9.8%. That compared with only a 1% drop in Mercedes-Benz total sales and its 143% leap in deliveries of electric and hybrid vehicles.
BMW suffered the largest absolute fall among premium carmakers of 4.8% in brand sales, attributed by the company to supply chain bottlenecks and the Chinese lockdowns that eased towards the second half of the year.
The Volkswagen brand fared worst year on year, with a 6.8% fall in sales attributed to supply chain issues affecting all model types.
Both BMW and Mercedes-Benz sales picked up in the fourth quarter as European supply chains improved and China relaxed its strict COVID-19 policies, though some companies have warned that rising coronavirus cases among staff could still stymie output.
Volkswagen did not report separate fourth-quarter sales. The Volkswagen group is due to report deliveries on Thursday.
BMW's total deliveries beat Mercedes-Benz by about 355,000 despite registering a fall from last year's levels in every major region from Europe to Asia and the Americas.
Mercedes-Benz has said it is no longer chasing volume, focusing instead on increasing profit margins to at least 15% in 2022 and marketing itself as a luxury brand selling exclusive products.
To that end, its top-end Maybach brand achieved record sales in 2022, Tuesday's data showed, up 37% from last year while sales of entry level models plunged by 10%.
(Reporting by Victoria Waldersee; Editing by Miranda Murray, Alexandra Hudson and David Goodman)