BMW's Luxury Sales Lead in U.S. Widens Over Mercedes, Lexus

  • Daimler's November results delayed a day by computer glitch
  • 4 Series expansion helps leader handle shift from cars to SUVs

Mercedes-Benz luxury-auto deliveries in the U.S. slid 13 percent in November, allowing BMW to widen its lead going into the final month in the annual sales race.

Sales at Daimler AG’s Mercedes, which delayed its monthly report a day because of a computer malfunction, fell to 30,043, with a 20 percent decline for cars as consumer tastes shift from luxury sedans to car-based sport utility vehicles. BMW AG’s namesake brand posted a 3.2 percent gain to 32,003, as deliveries of the X3 SUV more than doubled. Lexus rose 6.8 percent to a November record of 29,340, helped by its revamped RX SUV.

BMW benefited from the traditional strength of its 3 Series and other car models, plus strong entries such as the X3 in an SUV segment that’s booming now, Michelle Krebs, senior auto analyst at AutoTrader.com, said Tuesday.

BMW has been able to withstand the shift from cars to SUVs better than the other top brands. With sales of the redesigned flagship 7 Series jumping 48 percent in November to 1,045 and deliveries of the four-door 4 Series Gran Coupe tripling this year, the brand has had balanced growth in 2015: Car sales up 4.3 percent, SUV sales up 4.7 percent.

“The all-new 7 Series did very well in its first full month of sales but there’s no question the trend is towards light trucks,” Ludwig Willisch, chief executive officer of BMW of North America, said Monday in a statement. Improving availability of BMW SUVs “gave a nice boost to our overall sales in November,” he said.

Mercedes SUV sales slipped 2 percent last month. The results exclude BMW’s Mini vehicles and Daimler’s work trucks and Smart cars, which aren’t luxury vehicles.

Incentive Spending

Lexus, which hasn’t claimed the annual sales crown since 2010, boosted average incentives 19 percent last month as it started year-end promotions early, according to TrueCar Inc. estimates. The wasn’t enough to gain on BMW, which TrueCar said reduced its spending 3.6 percent from a year earlier, while Mercedes trimmed its discounts 7.4 percent. Lexus still spent less per vehicle than the two rivals.

BMW, which captured the sales crown in 2014, through November leads Mercedes by about 2,500 deliveries and Lexus by more than 8,000.

Krebs said she wouldn’t rule out a December surge by Lexus, in part because the redesigned RX SUV is just reaching dealers in large numbers.

“The RX dominates the segment and it hasn’t been redone in a while, so there’s tremendous interest in that vehicle,” Krebs said.

Lexus, like luxury competitors, enjoyed a surge in SUV sales in November, but its car deliveries slid 17 percent because models such as the IS sedan have gone too long without being refreshed with new technology, said Eric Lyman, a TrueCar vice president.

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