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NINETY EIGHT REGENCY

Crossovers are key to BMW pursuit of Lexus

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Crossovers are key to BMW pursuit of Lexus

Diana T. Kurylko

Automotive News -- February 22, 2010 - 12:01 am ET

ORLANDO -- Lexus widened its lead over BMW as the best-selling luxury brand in the United States last year. But BMW's top U.S. executive aims to overtake his rival in 2011 or 2012 after three new crossovers are introduced.

"Ask me in 2011 and I will say we have a chance," Jim O'Donnell, CEO of BMW of North America, said here this month at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention. "Come 2012, I would think we have a very good chance."

Lexus has long been the luxury champ, but BMW narrowed the gap in 2007 and 2008 before losing ground in 2009.

Last year, BMW -- excluding Mini and Rolls-Royce -- sold 196,502 vehicles, down 21 percent from a year earlier. Lexus sold 215,975 vehicles, down 17 percent.

Light trucks are the key to Lexus' lead. Last year, BMW sold 37,925 crossovers, compared with Lexus' sales of 103,230 crossovers and SUVs.

But BMW's redesigned X3 crossover goes on sale at the end of this year, and the new compact X1 crossover debuts in early 2011. The restyled X5 goes on sale this spring as a 2011 model.

Lexus' top-selling light truck is the RX 350, of which it sold 93,379 last year -- 43 percent of sales.

BMW's X3 competes with the RX but is nearly 8 inches shorter. The next-generation X3 is expected to be much closer in size to its Lexus rival.

Luxury leaders

Top 3 Prestige Brands in 2009 U.S. Sales % change from 2008

Lexus 215,975 -17%

BMW 196,502 -21%

Mercedes-Benz 190,538 -15%

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/article/20100222/RETAIL03/302229943/1078#ixzz0gGxhh7vy

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