Mercedes-Benz Comes Within 1,600 Autos of Luxury Leader BMW in U.S. Sales

Daimler AG (DAI)’s Mercedes-Benz topped Bayerische Motoren Werke AG’s BMW by more than 5,000 vehicle sales in the U.S. last month, coming within 1,600 of the lead in deliveries of luxury automobiles.

Mercedes deliveries, helped by a refreshed C-Class car and redesigned M-Class sport-utility vehicle, rose 47 percent to 26,796 in November, the Stuttgart, Germany-based automaker said yesterday in a statement, topping BMW for a second straight month. BMW’s U.S. sales rose 7 percent in November to 21,521, the Munich-based automaker said.

With November’s results, BMW’s lead for the year narrowed to 1,582 units over Mercedes. BMW sales have risen 12 percent to 221,073. Deliveries of Mercedes vehicles through November rose 12 percent to 219,491 in the U.S., the company said. The two are vying to replace Toyota Motor Corp. (TM)’s Lexus, which has been the annual U.S. luxury sales leader for the past 11 years.

“It’s going to be a very close race,” said Jesse Toprak, an industry analyst with TrueCar.com, a Santa Monica, California-based website that tracks auto sales. “Based on the current momentum, I think that Benz has a good chance of winning the race this year.”

A March earthquake and tsunami in Japan restricted supplies of Lexus cars and SUVs, and the brand’s year-to-date sales fell 14 percent to 173,197. Toyota City, Japan-based Lexus increased U.S. deliveries in November by 6.7 percent to 19,458.

BMW Looked ‘Unreachable’

Mercedes surge “is somewhat surprising,” Toprak said. “I thought BMW had a strong hold based upon earlier this year. They seemed unreachable.”

The results exclude Daimler’s Sprinter vans and Smart cars and BMW’s Mini brand, which aren’t luxury vehicles.

Mercedes’s product lineup got a boost in September when it began selling a new M-Class SUV and refreshed C-Class sedan. The automaker also began offering a two-door version of the C-Class to compete against BMW’s 3-Series lineup. C-Class sales in November more than doubled to 8,358 from 3,930, the company said. M-Class deliveries rose 38 percent to 4,796.

“By good fortune we have strong availability of brand-new product at a time when the wind shifted slightly in the marketplace,” Steve Cannon, Mercedes vice president of U.S. marketing, said yesterday in an interview in Detroit. November’s 13.6 million seasonally adjusted annualized selling rate was the highest in more than two years.

Mercedes is pushing the C-Class with lease deals, Toprak said.

“They’re creating a lot of volume play with the cheap leases they are putting out there,” he said.

‘Close’ Race

While December is traditionally Mercedes best-selling month, Cannon wouldn’t say that Mercedes will beat BMW for the year.

“December will look like November,” he said. “It’s going to be close.

“We have no mandate from Stuttgart that says beat BMW,” Cannon said. “If BMW wants to throw everything but the kitchen sink to hold onto a sales crown, we’re not going to duke it out with them,” he added.

General Motors Co. (GM)’s Cadillac luxury brand sales fell 5.6 percent last month to 11,145, according to the Detroit-based automaker.

U.S. deliveries of Audi, the premium brand of Wolfsburg, Germany-based Volkswagen AG, rose 3.6 percent to 9,700 vehicles last month, the company said in a statement. With 104,906 sales through November, the brand exceeded 100,000 U.S. deliveries for the second-straight year.

Porsche AG, the Stuttgart-based automaker, sold 2,255 vehicles in the U.S., a 6.7 percent decrease, the company said in an e-mailed statement.

Nissan Motor Co.’s Infiniti sold 8,428 vehicles, 3 percent more than a year earlier, the Yokohama, Japan-based company, said in a statement.

Honda Motor Co. (7267), based in Tokyo, said in a statement that sales for its Acura brand fell 7.5 percent to 9,909 last month.

Ford Motor Co. (F) sold 6,305 Lincolns in November, an 18 percent decrease from a year earlier, according to a statement from the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker.

Land Rover deliveries rose 31 percent to 3,820, while Jaguar sales dropped 18 percent to 915, said Autodata Corp., an industry researcher. The brands are owned by Mumbai-based Tata Motors Ltd.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tim Higgins in Southfield, Michigan at thiggins21@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at jbutters@bloomberg.net

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