New models fired up sales for premium brands Mercedes and BMW in March, as the battle for teutonic bragging rights in the luxury segment kicked into high gear.

BMW group sales hit a record 144,316 units in March, up 13.5 percent, buoyed by double-digit growth in the U.S. and Germany, and solid gains in the hot Chinese market. Meanwhile, Mercedes Car Group racked up sales of 138,400 units, up 17.4 percent, setting an all-time record. But in the all-important core brands, Mercedes-Benz scored 125,400 sales, while arch-rival BMW managed only 122,509 units.

Once again, new models tell the tale. Mercedes-Benz rolled out new or revamped models across the board last year, including fresh versions of the M-Class and S-Class, and the new R-Class and B-Class. The onslaught continues this year with the new GL-CLass SUV (pictured) and freshened SL- and E-Class models. BMW, on the other hand, has been surfing the wave generated by its new 3 Series, which accounts for about 40 percent of all BMW sales.

While Mercedes looks to be surging ahead in the near-term, expect BMW to fight back when its revamped MINI line rolls out.

[Source: Reuters, Mercedes Benz]