BMW tops Mercedes in May as cheaper luxury models woo buyers

DETROIT (Bloomberg) -- BMW topped Mercedes in May U.S. sales as cheaper models and fashionable crossover vehicles helped luxury brands gain traction in the market with new buyers enjoying rising disposable income.

The BMW brand boosted sales in May by 17 percent, helped by an 81 percent jump in deliveries of SUVs and crossover utility vehicles, like the X3, which more than doubled to 5,723 from a year earlier.

Mercedes reported a 7.7 percent increase to 26,617 deliveries, led by a 25 percent gain in sales of the E-class sedan and an 83 percent jump in the top-of-the-line S- class.

Mercedes, BMW and Audi are among luxury-auto brands expanding with lower-cost models as they seek to capture new buyers while retaining wealthier customers loyal to their market. The strategy is hitting home as the vehicles attract individuals including younger people new to the luxury market, whose wealth is increasing as real estate values rise and interest rates stay low.

BMW’s sales last month were 29,602, helping it overtake Mercedes-Benz as the top-selling U.S. luxury brand so far this year.

So far in 2014, BMW has sold 127,181 vehicles, a 12 percent increase from a year ago, topping Mercedes’ total by more than 2,000. Mercedes has sold 125,118 vehicles, a 6.5 percent increase.

Entry level

Last month, Mercedes sold 1,214 of its entry-level CLA, a sporty, sub-$30,000 coupe that helped the brand take the U.S. luxury-sales crown from BMW in 2013. Sales figures for the two brands don’t include Mercedes parent Daimler AG’s cargo vans and Smart cars and BMW’s Mini brand, which aren’t luxury vehicles.

Other luxury automakers also reported May sales today. Sales for Audi, a unit of Volkswagen AG, rose 25 percent to 16,601, helped by a 6 percent gain to 3,123 for the A4 sedan and 2,261 deliveries of its revamped, entry-level A3. May was Audi’s 41st straight U.S. sales record and its second-best month ever. Year-to-date, the automaker has posted sales of 67,482, an 11 percent gain.

Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus brand posted a May increase of 21 percent to 26,921. Sales more than doubled to 4,403 for the entry-level IS, while RX SUV deliveries rose 8.7 percent to 9,476, Toyota said in a statement. For the year, sales have risen 19 percent to 115,171.

General Motors Co.’s Cadillac posted a 6.4 percent increase to 14,688, with advances of 27 percent to 4,762 for the SRX SUV and 18 percent to 2,905 for the CTS sedan. Sales of the ATS sedan, winner of last year’s North American Car of the Year award, fell 23 percent to 2,497, GM said. For the year to date, Cadillac sales are down 2 percent to 68,176 vehicles.

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