Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus sold the most luxury vehicles in the U.S. in August, riding a wave of demand for its new crossover to a second straight monthly win and narrowing the gap with BMW.
Sales rose 2.1 percent from a year earlier to 33,487, including 4,448 of the new $34,480 NX sport utility vehicle, Lexus said Tuesday. For the year, the Toyota brand passed Mercedes-Benz for second place behind BMW.
All three reported record August sales as luxury buyers shook off the stock market slide and continued a strong year for high-end vehicles. More affordable entry-level models such as BMW’s $32,950 3 Series, Mercedes’s $31,500 CLA-Class and the NX are broadening the brands’ appeal to younger buyers.
“As BMW and Mercedes move down-market, the Lexus strategy has been very different,” said Kevin Tynan, an auto analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “It’s more about the Japanese building quality and reliability and not trying to out-German the Germans.”
For August, BMW said sales climbed 2 percent to 27,775, led by a 24 percent surge for the 3 Series. Daimler AG’s Mercedes reported a 4.8 percent gain to 28,373, with a 39 percent jump for the C-Class car and 2,169 deliveries of the new GLA small SUV. The results exclude Stuttgart, Germany-based Daimler’s Sprinter vans and Smart cars and Munich-based BMW AG’s Mini brand, which aren’t luxury vehicles.
For the year, BMW’s sales have increased 5.9 percent to 223,348, for a lead of 1,197 over Lexus, which has gained 12 percent to 222,151. Mercedes is up 7.3 percent to 220,870. BMW won the sales crown last year. The German brands have held the annual lead since 2011, when BMW snapped Lexus’s 11-year run.
This year, low interest rates are combining with the more affordable entry-level vehicles to help U.S. luxury sales outpace the industry.
“The luxury market continued its hot streak last month,” Jeff Bracken, group vice president for the Toyota City, Japan-based automaker’s luxury brand, said in a statement. Lexus offered a $329-a-month lease on the $38,000 ES sedan, with a complementary first month’s payment, to help win buyers in August.
Sales for Volkswagen AG’s Audi jumped 9.9 percent to 18,794, Audi’s second-best month since entering the U.S. in 1970. The monthly increase, Audi’s 56th in a row, included gains of 31 percent for the entry-level A3 and 34 percent for the Q5 SUV. Sales of the Q3 SUV rose almost fivefold to 1,189. For the year, Audi is up 12 percent to 130,063.