Mercedes outlasts BMW's late surge to grab U.S. luxury crown

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DETROIT (Bloomberg) -- Mercedes-Benz withstood a late surge from BMW, ending its rival's two-year reign as the U.S. luxury-vehicle sales leader as the breadth of Mercedes's lineup pushed it to a record year.

Mercedes posted a 17 percent gain in December with 33,007 deliveries, as the new entry-level CLA, and revamped mid-size E-class and premium S-class cars led the gains. For the year, Mercedes sales rose 14 percent to 312,534, or 3,254 more than BMW's 2013 total.

This was only the second time Mercedes has won the U.S. luxury sales crown, according to the Automotive News Data Center. It earned its other title in 1999 when it sold 189,437 vehicles in the U.S.

Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Mercedes parent Daimler AG, said in July he expected his company to come up short in 2013.

"We saw record sales, flexed our muscles across the entire product line from top to bottom and brought the customer experience to an all-time high," Steve Cannon, CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, said in a statement.

BMW reported December sales of 37,389, a decline of 10 deliveries from 2012. The automaker posted gains of 56 percent for its 3-series and 4-series sedans. For the year, BMW sales rose 10 percent to 309,280, topping its record from 2007.

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

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 September, owners had registered 216,724 new BMW vehicles in the U.S., compared with 206,952 from Mercedes, according to Polk.

Cadillac, Lexus

Toyota Motor Corp.'s Lexus, the top-selling luxury-auto brand in the U.S. for 11 years through 2010, posted a 14 percent increase in December, helped by the entry-level IS sedan, which more than doubled sales to 5,414. Deliveries rose to 34,757 for the month and climbed 12 percent to 273,847 for the year, the company said in a statement.

General Motors Co.'s Cadillac reported a 0.5 percent sales decrease to 18,165. Cadillac sales for the year advanced 22 percent to 182,543, as deliveries of the ATS sedan rose more than fivefold to 38,319 and the XTS sedan more than doubled to 32,559, GM said in a statement.

U.S. sales of Volkswagen AG's Audi brand rose 15 percent to 17,013 in December, the company said in a statement. Audi, which has posted record sales for 36 months in a row, reported increases of 53 percent for the Q7 SUV and 43 percent for the A6 sedan. Sales for the year rose 13 percent to 158,061, a record.

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