Why BMW and Mercedes look childish

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Memo to BMW and Mercedes: Grow up.

Over the past two days, the two luxury brands delayed and delayed before finally releasing their December and 2011 U.S. sales figures.

The most lenient explanation is that the two companies have woefully inadequate sales-tracking software. That would be grounds for beating down their stock prices.

The more likely explanation is that this was a playground showdown. “Show me yours!” “No, you show me yours first!”

Each company wanted to see the other’s sales numbers first, so that it would know how high its figures would have to be to grab the U.S. luxury-market crown from the other. And from Lexus. The Japanese brand is the usual luxury leader in the United States, but that ended last year when the March 11 earthquake hit Japan.

By the time the numbers came out, I was wondering whether that would be the end of the gamesmanship. Might the No. 2 brand “discover” some extra numbers that put it ahead? As in “Oops, we forgot to count Connecticut.”

That hasn’t happened -- yet.

You can reach James B. Treece at jtreece@crain.com.

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