Yesterday’s news of Audi’s best ever first quarter was reinforced this morning as BMW raised the bar even further.

Audi sold 369,500 units for January through to March, while BMW managed 448,200 units, up 5.3 per cent on last year. If there’s any consolation for Audi, they’ve managed to close the gap ‘very’ slightly – they raised their first quarter performance by 6.8 per cent.

Both brands increased their sales performance in March by 3.0 per cent compared to the same time last year – with 147,700 cars sold by Audi and 191,269 by BMW.

Of course BMW’s performance is represented by three brands – BMW, MINI and Rolls-Royce – while Audi has just the one brand, but even removing Rolls-Royce from the equation, BMW sold 190,958 cars in March and 447,558 for the quarter.

MINI sales were down in both periods by 2.0 and 3.0 per cent respectively, while BMW’s 6 Series was up a whopping 32.7 per cent compared with last year. Other climbers in BMW’s range include the new 3 Series – up 19.9 per cent, and X1 – with sales climbing by 27.6 per cent.

BMW attribute the drop in MINI sales to a four-week closure of the MINI Oxford plant for renovations at the beginning of the year, while Rolls-Royce, whose sales dropped by 16.6 per cent is also explained by the company’s planning cycle, which saw it gear up for the new Wraith.

Both companies report similar geographic trends in their first quarter results. Sales were down or subdued in their home market of Germany – down 3.8 per cent for BMW and up 2.0 per cent for Audi (although down 1.7 per cent in March), while the UK continues to show solid growth – up 9.7 per cent for Audi in the first quarter.

BMW performed especially well in the Middle-East and South Korea – up 27.7 per cent and 16.9 per cent, but otherwise recorded single digit growth in the U.S, China and Japan. Audi showed bigger gains in Mexico (up 48.6 per cent), U.S. (up 16.0 per cent) and Asia Pacific (incl China) which climbed by 14.9 per cent.

With the natural ebb-and-flow of model releases, both companies continue to evolve their brands and create new and profitable niches. But in their race to reach the elusive 2 million cars per year mark, BMW looks to have maintained its advantage for the time being.