Bayerische Motoren Werke AG’s namesake brand was the top-selling luxury auto marque in the U.S. in November, overtaking Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz in year- to-date deliveries and closing in on Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus.
U.S. sales for BMW in November rose 30 percent from a year earlier to 20,097, the Munich-based automaker said yesterday in a statement. Mercedes reported an 8.4 percent increase to 18,208, while Lexus’s deliveries fell 1.4 percent to 18,240.
BMW’s performance “definitely puts a lot of pressure on Lexus,” said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst with Santa Monica, California-based Edmunds.com, which studies auto sales. “It’s all going to come down to December.”
Lexus, owned by Toyota City, Japan-based Toyota, has been the top-selling luxury brand in the U.S. since 2000 and is holding onto the title for the year. Lexus delivered 201,769 vehicles in the country this year through November, topping the 196,833 for BMW and 196,288 for Mercedes.
The totals don’t include non-luxury models such as BMW’s Mini cars or Stuttgart, Germany-based Daimler’s Smart cars and Sprinter vans.
BMW and Mercedes, helped by new products and Toyota’s recalls, offered smaller discounts last month than a year earlier while Lexus more than doubled incentives, according to discount-tracking website TrueCar.com.
“Japanese companies have a lot of internal pride, and I’m sure there is a lot of internal politics and pressures that push them in this direction,” said Jesse Toprak, an analyst with Santa Monica, California-based TrueCar.
BMW reduced sales incentives and discounts 43 percent to an average of $3,162 per vehicle last month, while Mercedes’ decreased them 1 percent to $4,195, TrueCar said. Lexus increased incentives to an average of $3,124 per vehicle from $1,476 last year.
Lexus will top BMW and Mercedes in sales for the full year, said Brian Smith, vice president of U.S. Lexus sales.
“It will be an 11th year for Lexus, in terms of luxury car and SUV sales,” Smith said yesterday on a conference call.
The sales race in the luxury market suggests the economy is improving, said Paul Ballew, chief economist for Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. in Columbus, Ohio.
“Luxury retailers, not just car manufacturers, have come back pretty briskly,” Ballew, a former sales analyst for General Motors Corp., said in a telephone interview. “Part of that is higher-end, higher-educated households have weathered the downturn and participated in the recovery faster.”
Sales of the redesigned Mercedes E-Class sedan, which was introduced in 2009, have risen 47 percent this year, including a 3.4 percent gain in November, the company said.
Customers have pent-up demand, Ernst Lieb, head of Mercedes’s U.S. unit, said in a telephone interview.
“It’s just a suspicion, but maybe there’s a bit of confidence coming back,” he said.
C-Class sedan deliveries fell 2.3 percent to 3,930 last month, in part because a strike in South Africa earlier this year reduced inventories, Lieb said.
Sales of BMW’s redesigned 5-Series, introduced earlier this year, rose 58 percent to 5,042 in November. BMW’s all-wheel drive version of the sedan, released in October, improved the company’s sales by about 2,000 units, said Jim O’Donnell, head of BMW’s U.S. unit.
Lexus will keep the No. 1 spot this year because of its increased incentive spending and current lead, O’Donnell said in an interview.
“Next year, I would like to think we may have a go at them,” he said. BMW will have the redesigned X3 sport-utility vehicle and a full line of the revamped 5-Series in 2011, he said.
U.S. deliveries of Wolfsburg, Germany-based Volkswagen AG’s Audi brand climbed 38 percent to 9,365 vehicles. Audi sold 91,083 cars and trucks in the U.S. this year through November.
“We will definitely achieve our 100,000-plus” goal, Mark Del Rosso, chief operating officer of Audi’s U.S. unit, said in an interview. “It will be a record-breaking year for Audi of America.”
Porsche SE, the Stuttgart-based automaker merging with Volkswagen, said sales increased 49 percent to 2,416.
Deliveries of Detroit-based General Motors Co.’s Cadillac luxury line rose 21 percent to 11,801 last month.
Ford Motor Co., based in Dearborn, Michigan, sold 7,648 Lincoln luxury vehicles in November, a 19 percent increase from a year earlier. Ford yesterday said it hired Max Wolff, formerly director of exterior design for Cadillac, as design director of Lincoln.
Honda Motor Co., based in Tokyo, said sales of its Acura brand rose 22 percent to 10,718 last month. Deliveries of Yokohama, Japan-based Nissan Motor Co.’s Infiniti line gained 45 percent to 8,182 vehicles.
Tata Motors Ltd., based in Mumbai, said Land Rover deliveries rose 35 percent to 2,922 vehicles while Jaguar sales declined 3.1 percent to 1,117.
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