BMW, Mercedes still counting down to the last U.S. sale

Mercedes-Benz USA and BMW of North America delayed releasing their 2011 U.S. sales results today, leaving the U.S. luxury sales race undecided.

And it's a big deal for both -- something neither company's CEO will admit publicly. But company executives wink at you and say it sure would be nice.

Mercedes-Benz said late Wednesday in an email: "Our Distribution department apparently encountered some glitches this morning and hasn't confirmed the numbers for us, so we're standing by."

BMW stayed mum but said informally that it wasn't likely to report December figures until Thursday morning.

It all seemed gravely suspicious.

"There is a lot at stake," said a dealer who has both brands.

Lexus has been the U.S. luxury brand leader for 11 consecutive years but 2011 sales at Toyota Motor Corp.'s luxury unit fell because of the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

BMW and Mercedes-Benz were neck-neck for most of 2011. At the end of November, BMW led Mercedes by less than 1,600 units.

BMW sales had risen 12 percent to 221,073 through November, compared with sales of 219,491 at Mercedes, a tally that excludes sales of the Sprinter van.

It would be the first time for BMW and second time for Mercedes, which captured the crown from Lincoln in 1999 before yielding it to Lexus.

Stay tuned.

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