Mercedes pads luxury lead as new models help set February record

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DETROIT (Bloomberg) -- Mercedes-Benz, the top-selling luxury-auto brand in the U.S. last year, extended its 2014 lead with record February sales on the strength of new models.

The Daimler AG unit sold 22,609 vehicles last month, a gain of 2.6 percent from a year earlier, led by the revamped S-class sedan, which starts at $92,900, and the new entry-level CLA car, with a base price of $29,900, according to a statement today.

Mercedes beat the BMW brand, which reported a 3.3 percent February gain to 22,017, for the second month this year and now holds a 4,943-vehicle lead. BMW ceded the annual U.S. luxury-sales crown to Mercedes in 2013, ending a two-year reign.

"Mercedes is hitting it on the product portfolio," Larry Dominique, president of ALG Inc., which sets vehicle residual values, said in an interview. "It seems BMW has been a little behind the curve on the product side. But they're not dumb. They'll come back pretty strong."

Sales of Mercedes's S-class almost doubled to 1,789 in February while the CLA, which debuted in September, sold 1,971. BMW was led by a combined 12 percent increase for its 3 series and 4 series and a 52 percent jump for the X3 SUV.

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

Mercedes for all of last year outsold BMW by 3,254 units, in results by reported sales. By vehicle registrations, Mercedes outsold BMW by 2,270 last year, according to researcher R.L. Polk & Co.

Toyota Motor Corp.'s Lexus luxury brand posted a February increase of 8.7 percent to 18,855. Sales more than doubled for the entry-level IS, to 3,517, and for the GX SUV, to 1,590, the company said in a statement.

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