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BMW eclipses car show rivals with 3-level test track

Agencies | Updated: 2013-09-11 21:21

BMW has built a 300-meter, three-level indoor test track at this year's Frankfurt motor show - all to outshine German arch-rivals Audi and Mercedes-Benz as it battles to stay in pole position in the world's luxury car market.

Incorporated into BMW's 10,000-square meter exhibition space, the figure of eight-shaped track will give visitors the chance to test drive two dozen vehicles, including BMW's first all-electric car, the 34,950-euro ($46,000) i3 hatchback.

"We're keen to live up to our leadership claim in every possible respect," Steven Althaus, BMW branding chief told Reuters. "That central idea is reflected through our show stand" which took two months to build.

German premium carmakers traditionally compete against one another for the most impressive display during the Frankfurt show, Europe's biggest, but BMW is particularly hard-pressed to turn heads this year as its sales lead over Audi has been melting away.

Competition among the big three has intensified since Mercedes was overtaken by Audi in 2011 as the runner-up in the luxury car market by sales.

Both want to replace BMW in the top spot by the end of the decade and are also determined to make a splash in Frankfurt.

Audi has pledged "to turn the show upside down" by having imitations of skyscrapers and city districts sprout from the ceiling of its partly mirrored exhibition pavilion, drawing attention to the challenges of urban mobility, the brand's event marketing chief, Bernhard Neumann, told Reuters.

Mercedes, meanwhile, has a 250-metre track outside the Festhalle, the century-old venue for the show which was inaugurated by German Emperor Wilhelm II and has space for 13,500 people.

"It's totally obvious that we're eyeing each other," said Andreas von Wallfeld, Mercedes' event communication chief.

"Frankfurt is by far the top show for the German premiums. It's that mutual competition that spurs us ahead in the global sales race."

"The money's worth it"

BMW outsold Audi by 85,000 cars last year, but Volkswagen-owned (VW) Audi's steady progress in China and North America shrank the margin to no more than 21,000 at the end of July.

Daimler-owned Mercedes, meantime, has reinforced its global ambitions by pushing design updates and compact models while fixing distribution problems in China.

BMW was the first of the three top German brands to allow visitors to test its cars in action at the 2009 Frankfurt event. The show, which has been held since 1899, is key to Germany's flagship nameplates, with BMW, Audi, Mercedes and Porsche all headquartered within 400 kilometers of the Frankfurt fair.

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