BMW Tops Mercedes in Vehicle Registrations, Polk Says

Bayerische Motoren Werke AG’s BMW, trailing Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz in U.S. luxury vehicle sales so far this year, exceeded its German counterpart in first-quarter new U.S. vehicle registrations.

U.S. buyers registered 67,385 BMW vehicles through March this year, compared with Mercedes’s 62,366, according to researcher R.L. Polk & Co., which tracks state by state records. Sales for the BMW brand totaled 64,902 in the same period, compared with 69,187 for Mercedes. The reverse was true for 2012, when BMW won the sales crown with a late surge while Mercedes had more new registrations.

“Generally, the two makes track very closely to one another,” Tom Libby, lead North American analyst for Southfield, Michigan-based Polk, said in an e-mail. “A new model launch or redesign can help one make in a particular month. But, as we have seen the last two years, a lot can change very quickly at the end of the year.”

Vehicles can be reported as sold when delivered to dealerships to be used for test drives and loaner cars in addition to those actually bought by consumers. Automakers report U.S. vehicle sales within a few days of the end of a month. New vehicle registration data usually lag sales data by about 40 days, Libby said.

The sales and registration results don’t include Stuttgart, Germany-based Daimler’s cargo vans and Smart cars and BMW’s Mini brand, which aren’t luxury vehicles. On that basis, Mercedes has reported U.S. sales of 117,535 vehicles this year through May compared with 113,357 for BMW.

The two German automakers are vying to be the top luxury-auto brand in the U.S. after outselling Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus the past two years. Munich-based BMW vaulted to its second consecutive U.S. luxury crown in 2012. Lexus was the top-selling luxury brand in the U.S. for 11 years until natural disasters in Asia curtailed production in 2011.

Polk agreed to be acquired by Englewood, Colorado-based IHS Inc. for $1.4 billion, IHS said in a separate statement.