Audi Shanghai Auto Show

Audi is set to overtake rival Mercedes-Benz for the first time in luxury car sales, finishing 2011 as the world’s second biggest premium automaker.

The German brand is poised to finish the year just behind the world’s most popular luxury automaker, BMW, beating Mercedes-Benz in the race to woo well-to-do buyers.

As automakers enter the last month of sales for the year, Audi has sold over 56,000 more vehicles than Daimler-owned Mercedes-Benz, a new record which puts it on track to finish the year with a record 1.3 million cars sold.

BMW says that it could sell a record 1.6 million vehicles, having already sold 1.25 million through November.

It will be an unfortunate end to the year for Daimler, which by most standards has achieved a lot — for over two years in a row, it has sold more cars than in the same months of last year.

It looks set to break a yearly record too — no doubt helped, just like its rivals, by a surge in demand from the booming Chinese market.