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BMW's namesake brand retained its lead over Volkswagen's Audi AG (NSU.

XE) unit with 356,548 car sales in the first quarter, up 11% from last year thanks mainly to buoyant sales of its the new-generation 3 Series, the compact 1-series and its sports-utility-vehicles.

Audi, Volkswagen's premium brand and key earnings contributor, said Tuesday it sold 346,100 cars in the January-to-March period, up 11% from the previous year, helped in part by a 3% rise in sales in Germany as demand picked up in March compared with earlier in the year.

Audi's sales are expected to be driven this year by the long-wheelbase version of its A6 model in China and the new-generation of its compact A3, which will be launched in the second half of this year.

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