Mercedes warns dealers of tight CLA supplies

Daimler anticipates "tight inventories and low days supply" from February through June in the United States because of the CLA's "overwhelming success" worldwide.

DETROIT (Bloomberg) -- Mercedes-Benz told its U.S. dealers they should expect fewer CLAs in the first half of 2014 after the new $29,900 coupe helped widen the automaker's luxury-sales lead this year over rival BMW.

The Daimler AG unit in a Dec. 9 letter to dealers said it anticipates "tight inventories and low days supply" from February through June because of the car's "overwhelming success" worldwide.

The CLA's plant is at full capacity, and output should support demand by July, according to the letter.

"This is our best launch in 20 years," Steve Cannon, head of Mercedes's U.S. sales, said in a statement. "The CLA has been a phenomenal success right out of the gate."

Mercedes widened its U.S. lead over BMW in November as CLA sales contributed almost all its monthly gain.

Mercedes deliveries rose 14 percent through the year's first 11 months, for a 7,610-vehicle lead. Mercedes is seeking to end BMW's two-year reign in annual U.S. luxury sales, after Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said in July that he expected to come up short again.

The CLA is bringing a younger U.S. buyer to Mercedes, according to the letter to dealers.

The median age is 46, compared with 54 for C-Class buyers and 57 for the brand, Mercedes said.

Donna Boland, a Mercedes spokeswoman, confirmed the letter.

"Our dealers say that they're seeing a lot more floor traffic and many new faces" because of the CLA, Cannon said. "The increase in our overall model sales indicates that this traffic is benefiting all Mercedes-Benz models."

BMW's status as annual leader for 2012 was based on reported sales. By vehicle registrations, Mercedes topped BMW last year, according to researcher R.L. Polk & Co.

Through this September, owners had registered 216,724 new BMW vehicles in the United States, compared with 206,952 from Mercedes, according to Polk.

The results don't include Daimler's cargo vans and Smart cars and Munich-based BMW's Mini brand, which aren't luxury vehicles.

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