BMW 39% December Gain Overtakes Mercedes for U.S. Crown

Bayerische Motoren Werke AG’s BMW U.S. sales surged 39 percent in December, powered by the 5 Series car line, helping it top Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz in luxury-auto deliveries for the second consecutive year.

Sales for BMW increased to 37,399 vehicles last month, boosted by a 72 percent gain for its midsize 5 Series. Mercedes reported a 9.5 percent increase from a year earlier to 28,145, helped by sales of the E-Class sedan, which rose 32 percent to 6,984. Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus rose 21 percent to 30,607.

December’s sales vaulted BMW past Mercedes, which held a 1,849-vehicle lead through November. BMW finished 2012 with 281,460 vehicles sold, topping Mercedes-Benz by 7,326. The two German automakers were vying to be the top luxury-auto brand in the U.S. after outselling Lexus last year. Lexus was the top-selling luxury brand in the U.S. for 11 years until natural disasters in Asia curtailed vehicle production in 2011.

“We like to be No. 1 and we are No. 1 in the world,” Ludwig Willisch, chief executive officer of BMW of North America, said in an interview. “Being No. 1 means success.”

BMW’s U.S. sales rose 14 percent for 2012, the Munich-based automaker said today. BMW also benefited from a 46 percent jump in X3 sport-utility vehicle sales in December to 5,162. Deliveries of the SUV rose 27 percent for the year to 35,173.

Stuttgart, Germany-based Mercedes’s 2012 U.S. sales rose 12 percent to 274,134, the automaker said. In 2011, BMW topped Mercedes in the U.S. by 2,715 vehicles. Lexus’s U.S. sales totaled 244,166 vehicles in 2012, a 23 percent gain from a year earlier and its highest volume since 2008.

The sales results don’t include Daimler’s cargo vans and Smart cars and BMW’s Mini brand, which aren’t luxury vehicles.

Mercedes ‘Constraints’

Mercedes “significantly” exceeded its U.S. sales target, Steve Cannon, head of Mercedes-Benz’s U.S. operations, said in an interview. Sales were limited by the availability of M-Class and GL-Class sport-utility vehicles, he said.

“You’ve got to sell within the constraints of your product line,” he said. “We could have sold thousands more in the U.S. We didn’t get that allocation.”

General Motors Co.’s Cadillac rose 12 percent to 18,248 vehicles in December, helped by the new XTS sedan, the Detroit-based automaker said in a statement. For the year, sales fell 1.7 percent to 149,782.

Ford Motor Co. sold 7,384 Lincolns in December, a 12 percent decrease from a year earlier, according to a statement from the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker. Ford is starting a new ad campaign to try to revive the luxury brand. The campaign will include an ad during the 2013 Super Bowl football game to be broadcast by CBS. For the year, Lincoln sales fell 4.1 percent to 82,150.

Sales of Tokyo-based Honda Motor Co.’s Acura brand rose 22 percent to 16,034 last month, the company said in a statement. Deliveries for the year rose 27 percent to 156,216.

‘Conquest Mode’

U.S. sales of Wolfsburg, Germany-based Volkswagen’s Audi brand rose 17 percent last month to 14,841, the company said in a statement. For the year, sales rose 19 percent to 139,310.

Audi is winning customers from BMW, Mercedes and Lexus, Scott Keogh, president of Audi’s U.S. operations, said in an interview.

“The good news is, we’re taking more buyers from them then they are from us,” Keogh said. “We’re still in conquest mode.”

Nissan Motor Co.’s Infiniti sold 12,627 vehicles last month, a 15 percent gain from a year earlier, the Yokohama, Japan-based company said in a statement. Deliveries for 2012 rose 22 percent to 119,877 vehicles.

Porsche, the Stuttgart-based automaker that is now part of Volkswagen, sold 2,952 vehicles in the U.S. last month, a 61 percent gain, the company said in a statement. For the year, sales surged 21 percent to 35,043.

Land Rover deliveries rose 9.1 percent to 5,174, while Jaguar sales declined 7.7 percent to 1,049, according to an e-mailed statement. The U.K. brands are owned by Mumbai-based Tata Motors Ltd. For the year, Land Rover sales climbed 15 percent to 43,664 while Jaguar fell 2.2 percent to 12,011.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.