BMW Widens U.S. Luxury Edge Over Mercedes as Lexus Rolls Out RX

BMW Posts Surprise Profit Boost on X5 SUV
  • SUVs from Mercedes, BMW and Lexus drive October sales gains
  • Revamped RX and BMW's refreshed X1 both debut this month

BMW sold the most luxury autos in the U.S. in October, extending its thin lead over Mercedes-Benz as the race heads into the final two months. Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus remains a close third as it starts offering a revamped version of its best-selling model, the RX sport utility vehicle.

Deliveries for BMW fell 3.8 percent to 29,439, even with gains of 8 percent for the 3 Series sedan and 88 percent for the X3 SUV. Mercedes on Tuesday reported a 1.3 percent increase to 28,952, led by an 18 percent advance for its E-Class cars. Lexus jumped 13 percent to 26,436.

The annual race promises to get tighter this month with the debut of the RX and of BMW’s revamped small SUV, the X1, as well as increased availability of its X3 and X5 sport utilities. Luxury vehicles are riding a wave of relatively cheap gasoline, affordable credit and high used-car values, which is helping keep leasing terms affordable. More than half of luxury cars are leased.

Premium brands have “had the luck of the draw,” Mark Wakefield, managing director and head of the automotive practice for consultant AlixPartners, said in an interview. “We’re going to see low lease offers and that’s going to do a lot to prop the market up.”

Year-to-Date Tally

BMW AG’s namesake brand, the current holder of the annual crown, leads this year through October with 279,395 sales, a 4.6 percent increase from a year earlier. Daimler AG’s Mercedes was just 553 behind at 278,842, up 6.5 percent. Lexus deliveries totaled 273,881, a gain of 12 percent.

The Toyota brand last month benefited from 3,399 sales of its new NX small SUV and 8,018 of the outgoing version of the RX.

The RX has been the most popular vehicle in Lexus’s 26-year history. It’s also the stickiest: 60 percent of RX owners buy another Lexus, compared with about 48 percent for the brand as a whole. The new RX, loaded with the most safety technology of any Lexus, enters one of the industry’s hottest segments in the industry: luxury SUVs, which account for about half the premium market.

The German brands have captured the annual title since 2011, when BMW snapped Toyota City, Japan-based Lexus’s 11-year run. The results exclude Stuttgart, Germany-based Daimler’s Sprinter vans and Smart cars and Munich-based BMW’s Mini brand, which aren’t luxury vehicles.

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