Mercedes Jumps Out to Big Early Lead in U.S. Luxury-Car Race

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  • Even cars contribute to solid start for Daimler’s key brand
  • BMW gains 0.1% while Toyota’s Lexus line plummets in January

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Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz jumped out to an early lead in the race for U.S. luxury auto sales supremacy, posting a record January after winning the crown last year for the first time since 2013.

Mercedes sold 25,527 cars and light trucks in the U.S. last month, a 3.5 percent increase from a year earlier, according to a statement. Following a year in which premium car models lost market share to light trucks, the brand scored significant gains with sedans last month, as the C-Class jumped 27 percent and E-Class surged 49 percent.

“This is the strong start we look for following a record year,” said Dietmar Exler, chief executive officer of the Atlanta-based U.S. unit. The German automaker also took the global sales title from BMW AG’s namesake line last year.

Daimler’s rivals weren’t as fortunate last month. BMW increased sales just 0.1 percent to 18,109, while Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus plunged 26 percent to 15,572. The results exclude BMW’s Mini cars and Daimler’s work trucks and Smart cars, because they aren’t luxury vehicles.

Volkswagen AG’s Audi continues to close the gap against the “big three” atop the U.S. luxury market. The brand reported an 11 percent sales gain to 13,201 vehicles, powered by more than 30 percent increases for the A4 car models and Q5 and Q3 crossovers.

Dietmar Exler

Photographer: Troy Harvey/Bloomberg

Mercedes and its independent retailers had constructive dialogue about how to build on last year’s results, Exler said Saturday at the National Automobile Dealers Association meeting in New Orleans.

“We challenge each other with the simple idea: How can we do better?” he said in an interview. “Nothing else really matters. That is working very, very well.”