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BMW's Big Weapon in the Luxury Sales Race: SUVs

BMW has nudged back in front of Audi in the race for luxury car buyers, lifting sales 17 percent over a year ago and moving 186,126 of its opulent driving machines last month. The result means BMW (BMW:GR) closed the first quarter with 428,129 vehicles sold, ahead of Audi’s 412,800 and Mercedes’s 396,400.

What’s interesting is that BMW has moved the needle with its crop of crossovers. Deliveries of the X5, BMW’s big SUV, increased 14 percent in the first quarter, while its smaller X3 posted an 11 percent gain, and the company posted a 15 percent increase for its X1, which looks more like a swollen wagon than a small SUV.

Granted, Audi and Mercedes are selling a lot of crossovers, too, but they aren’t crowing about them so loudly. Daimler’s recent report swooned over sedan sales. Audi’s best-performer of late has been its A8, a Great White shark of a sedan, while its sporty TT coupe is also going gangbusters.

No wonder BMW is spending $1 billion to expand its South Carolina SUV factory. By 2016, the plant will be able to stamp out 450,000 crossovers a year. Apparently, the company does not think its recent track record is an anomaly.

Stock is an associate editor for Twitter: @kylestock

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