June 4 (Bloomberg) -- General Motors Co.’s Cadillac brand posted its biggest gain so far this year since Gerald Ford was president, the U.S. celebrated its 200th birthday and “The Hustle” won a Grammy.
Through May, Cadillac sales increased 38 percent to 69,750. That was the brand’s biggest year-to-date increase since 1976, when sales jumped 45 percent to 135,258 and Van McCoy’s “The Hustle” won for best pop instrumental performance.
“Think about that,” Kurt McNeil, Detroit-based GM’s vice president of sales operations, said yesterday during a conference call. “We’re talking about the days of disco, when Cadillac was strictly a U.S. brand back then, not one that’s directly challenging the German luxury brands and gearing up to triple its sales in China over the next couple of years.”
GM is counting on Cadillac to help increase profit with sales to higher-income buyers. The company is positioning Cadillac and Chevrolet as the automaker’s two global brands, with Chevy for the mass market. Seventy percent of U.S. customers of the new ATS sedan are buying their first Cadillac while 50 percent are trading in a vehicle from another manufacturer, David Caldwell, a GM spokesman, said in an e-mail.
GM’s luxury brand’s deliveries gained 40 percent in May to 13,808 vehicles on demand for ATS and XTS, another new sedan. The two models accounted for 41 percent of deliveries. Cadillac posted its best May sales since 2007. GM ranks fourth in U.S. luxury-vehicle sales, behind Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz, Bayerische Motoren Werke AG’s BMW and Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus.
Mercedes sales rose 9.8 percent to 24,713 last month, while BMW posted a 14 percent increase to 25,230. The May results narrow Mercedes’s 2013 lead to 4,178 vehicles as the two German automakers compete for the sales crown BMW has held for two years, based on reported sales. Counting registrations, Mercedes topped BMW in 2012, according to researcher R.L. Polk & Co.
Mercedes sales for the year through May gained 11 percent to 117,535, Stuttgart, Germany-based Daimler said yesterday in a statement. BMW’s 2013 deliveries rose 8.2 percent to 113,357, the Munich-based company said yesterday in a statement. The results don’t include Daimler’s cargo vans and Smart cars and BMW’s Mini brand, which aren’t luxury vehicles.
BMW’s sales of 3 Series sedans rose 47 percent to 9,307 in May, helped by the new 320i, which starts at $32,550. The model is attracting 60 percent of its buyers from other brands, including Honda Motor Co.’s Honda and Acura brands as well as Mazda Motor Corp., Ludwig Willisch, BMW’s chief executive officer for North America, said in an interview yesterday.
“The market is picking up and the mood is good,” Willisch said. “It’s all positive.”
Mercedes’s results were led by the C-Class sedan, which rose 21 percent in May to 8,013, and the GL-Class SUV, which rose 41 percent. Results were limited by inventory, as demand exceeds dealer supply, Steve Cannon, chief executive officer of Mercedes-Benz USA, said in an interview yesterday.
“Our biggest challenge is getting product into the market,” Cannon said. “It’s a good problem to have.”
Lexus reported a 3.6 percent increase for May, to 22,229, as deliveries of the ES sedan more than doubled to 5,890. Lexus, which was the annual sales leader for 11 years until natural disasters in Asia curtailed 2011 output, said it has sold 97,060 vehicles this year through May, a 10 percent gain.
Cadillac’s average transaction price rose 6.1 percent in May to $50,500, Alec Gutierrez, an Irvine, California-based industry analyst for Kelley Blue Book, said yesterday in a phone interview.
“Cadillac is not just improving volume, they are getting a premium price point along with it,” he said. “Cadillac has really been on the mark with their latest introductions. They are far more competitive today than they were three or four years ago.”
U.S. sales of Wolfsburg, Germany-based Volkswagen AG’s Audi brand rose 15 percent to 13,228, according to a statement. That was the brand’s 29th straight month of record sales. The gains included 48 percent for the A5 sedan and 45 percent for the Q5, the second-best sales month ever for the SUV. Sales for the year have risen 15 percent to 60,571.
Honda’s Acura brand sales fell 1.5 percent to 14,364 last month, the Tokyo-based company said in a statement.
Nissan Motor Co.’s Infiniti plunged 25 percent to 7,899 vehicles, the Yokohama, Japan-based automaker said in a statement.
Ford Motor Co. sold 7,305 Lincolns in May, a 0.4 percent gain from a year earlier, the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker reported. Ford said sales of the MKZ sedan surged 42 percent to 3,490.
Porsche, the Stuttgart-based automaker that is now part of Volkswagen, posted a 38 percent gain in May to 3,928 vehicles in the U.S., a record for the month.
Land Rover sales rose 3.4 percent last month to 3,554, while Jaguar’s gained 33 percent to 1,435, according to an e-mailed statement. The U.K. brands are owned by Mumbai-based Tata Motors Ltd.
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