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Mercedes takes U.S. luxury lead as entry level expands

Mercedes sold 2,433 CLAs in the U.S. in January.

DETROIT (Bloomberg) -- Mercedes-Benz, the top-selling luxury-auto brand in the U.S. in 2013, started out this year in the lead with record January sales as carmakers broaden their lineups to bring in younger buyers.

The Daimler luxury brand sold 22,604 vehicles last month, 103 more than a year earlier, led by the new entry-level CLA car, according to a statement today. BMW, surpassed by Mercedes in 2013, reported an 11 percent gain to 18,253.

Mercedes and BMW are among luxury-auto makers expanding with lower-cost models. Sales of entry-level cars and SUVs represent 67 percent of the U.S. luxury market and probably will keep growing this year, Bloomberg Industries forecasts. Mercedes will benefit from a full year of its CLA, which starts at $29,900, a refreshed C-class and a new GLA small SUV, while BMW is introducing a $33,025 2-series coupe.

"That's where the growth is going to come from," Kevin Tynan, a Bloomberg Industries analyst in Skillman, N.J., said in an interview. "As they get more significant penetration to the entry car and SUV market, volumes will go up."

January sales for Mercedes also benefited from a 37 percent surge for its S-class. BMW, based in Munich, was led by a combined 34 percent jump for its 3 series and 4 series and a 26 percent increase for the 5 series.

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

2013 reversal

Mercedes last year outsold BMW by 3,254 vehicles, ending its two-year reign as the best-selling U.S. luxury-auto brand.

That result was for reported sales. By vehicle registrations, BMW through September last year was ahead with 216,724 to 206,952 for Mercedes, according to researcher R.L. Polk & Co.

Toyota Motor Corp.'s Lexus luxury brand posted an 8.8 percent increase to 17,637 in January. Lexus was helped by the entry-level IS, which more than doubled sales, and the RX SUV, which rose 3.9 percent, the company said in a statement.

General Motors Co.'s Cadillac reported a 13 percent sales decline to 11,386, as deliveries fell for every model except the crossover SRX, which rose 1.5 percent, GM said in a statement.

Audi's U.S. sales rose 0.4 percent to 10,101 last month, according to a statement. The Volkswagen unit has posted record sales for 37 months in a row. Its January results included a 43 percent gain for the Q7 SUV.

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