BMW has held onto its crown as the top selling luxury carmaker, but rivals Audi and Mercedes-Benz have closed the gap.

A strong December, in which it outsold its main competitors, closed out the 10th year in a row that BMW has taken the top-selling title. Last month saw a jump of 14% in the number of BMW core brand deliveries, to a total of 177,954 cars.

The company stated that full-year sales reached a record 1.81 million, a 10% increase from the previous year, driven largely by strong sales figures in the U.S. and Chinese markets.

BMW: Top-Selling Luxury Carmaker 10 Years In A Row

Industry giants

The luxury car sector is the scene of a three-way slugging match between the German brands. Mercedes-Benz dropped into 3rd position back in 2011, losing out to Audi, but has now outsold its rival for 2 months in a row. Mercedes recorded December sales figures of 163,171 vehicles, an increase of 17%.

It was not all bad news for Audi, whose 150,000 vehicles sold represented a 15% increase on 2013 figures.

The figure of 1.81 million total sales is a 9.5% increase over 2013 for BMW. Audi also saw a 10.5% increase in sales to 1.74 million, while third place Mercedes-Benz increased sales 12.9% to 1.65 million total.

BMW’s shifting situation

According to Ian Robertson, BMW marketing chief, sales increased across all important regions due to high demand for new vehicles like the X4, the 2-Series Active Tourer and the electric i3.

Mercedes saw an important shift, with China becoming the carmaker’s second-largest market after the U.S., beating Germany into third. The company sold 29.1% more vehicles this year in China, reaching 281,588.

Analyst Sascha Gommel of Commerzbank predicted that all 3 carmakers would continue to increase sales year-on-year, but added that growth seemed to be slowing in the U.S. and China.

“Demand in the US appears to have outpaced underlying economic growth and the expansion in China is slowing,” he said  “The German premiums will keep growing but at a slower rate.”

The dominance of the big three looks set to continue even if the rate of growth slows down.