The Volkswagen Group brands have released their 2020 financial results, detailing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on global sales.
Most recorded a sharp decline, in line with global trends, although the impact was less profound for more premium-oriented marques.
Audi sold more than half a million cars in one quarter for the first time in 2020, delivering 505,583 cars to customers in the final three months of the year.
Overall, however, the brand was significantly impacted by the pandemic, delivering 1,692,773 units globally for a year-on-year decline of 8.3%. That was despite record sales in China, Audi's biggest global market, where it sold 727,358 cars - a 5.4% year-on-year increase.
The brand attributes its strong end-of-year performance to "experience gained during the first wave of coronavirus in spring," when global sales and production operations were largely shut down in an effort to contain the spread of the disease. Expansion of its digital sales and service offerings has helped compensate for dealerships being closed.
Demand for the E-tron surged 79.5% in 2020, with the 47,324 examples sold overall making it "the global top-seller among electric vehicles made by German premium manufacturers," according to Audi.
The SUV was recently revealed as a key factor in Norway becoming the first country in the world where the majority of new car sales are of electric cars, accounting for more than 10% of all new EVs sold in the country.
The conventionally powered Q3 SUV also recorded strong growth, with an 18.1% year-on-year sales increase, while the A6 executive car received an 11.8% increase in demand and Audi Sport models had their best year on record, selling 29,300 units for a 16.1% year-on-year increase.
Audi's European deliveries declined 19.5% in 2020, but it said: "In the fourth quarter, an upwards trend was already evident again, despite increasing restrictions resulting from the coronavirus pandemic."
In contrast to other Volkswagen Group brands, Bentley sold a record number of cars worldwide in 2020, despite the pandemic.
The British luxury marque delivered 11,206 units to customers, 2% more than in 2019 and the highest figure since it was founded 101 years ago, despite a five-week factory shutdown in the spring and nine weeks of running at 50% normal capacity after that.