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Lexus holds a narrow lead over BMW, Mercedes in annual U.S. sales race

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Lexus holds a narrow lead over BMW, Mercedes in annual U.S. sales race

December 2, 2010 14:32 CET

DETROIT (Bloomberg) – BMW AG may have sold the most luxury cars in the United States in November, but many predict Toyota Motor Corp.'s Lexus will still retain the crown as the country's best-selling premium brand for the 11th straight year.

U.S. sales for BMW in November rose 30 percent from a year earlier to 20,097, the automaker announced in a statement on Wednesday. Mercedes reported an 8.4 percent increase to 18,208, while Lexus's deliveries fell 1.4 percent to 18,240.

But Lexus, the top-selling luxury brand in the United States since 2000, holds the overall lead. Through 11 months, Lexus has delivered 201,769 vehicles, topping the 196,833 for BMW and 196,288 for Mercedes. The totals don't include non-luxury models such as BMW's Mini cars or Daimler's Smart cars and Sprinter vans.

BMW believes Lexus will keep the No. 1 spot this year because of its increased incentive spending.

“Next year, I would like to think we may have a go at them. BMW will have the redesigned X3 SUV and a full line of the revamped 5 series in 2011," Jim O'Donnell, head of BMW's U.S. unit said in an interview.

Sales incentives

BMW and Mercedes, helped by new products and Toyota's recalls, offered smaller discounts last month than a year earlier while Lexus more than doubled incentives, according to discount-tracking Web site TrueCar.com.

BMW reduced sales incentives and discounts 43 percent to an average of $3,162 per vehicle last month, while Mercedes' decreased them 1 percent to $4,195, the Web site said. Lexus increased incentives to an average of $3,124 per vehicle from $1,476 last year.

The sales race in the luxury market suggests the U.S. economy is improving, said Paul Ballew, chief economist for Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. in Columbus, Ohio.

“Luxury retailers, not just car manufacturers, have come back pretty briskly,” Ballew, a former sales analyst for General Motors Corp., said in a telephone interview. “Part of that is higher-end, higher-educated households have weathered the downturn and participated in the recovery faster.”

Rise in E-class sales

Sales of Mercedes's E-class sedan have boosted the company's figures this year rising 47 percent, including a 3.4 percent gain in November, while BMW's redesigned 5-series, introduced earlier this year, rose 58 percent to 5,042 in November. In contrast, Volkswagen AG's Audi brand climbed 38 percent to 9,365 vehicles. Audi sold 91,083 cars and trucks in the U.S. this year through November.

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20101202/ANE/101209940/1292#ixzz16yHcdkVa

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