Mercedes-Benz is third in the luxury segment but first in U.S. sales of luxury vehicles.
Does it help to point out that every luxury brand except Porsche sells a lot of vehicles that are not expensive enough to be in the luxury class?
BMW has its 3 series; Cadillac has its CTS; Lexus has its ES 300, IS 300 and some of its RX 300. Get the idea?
So what is a luxury vehicle? In taxing them, the feds say they are conveyances with a transaction price of $40,000 or more. I don't have access to all the transactions in the nation, so I use the manufacturer's suggested retail price, including optional equipment, with $40,000 as the benchmark.
On that basis, Mercedes was the luxury leader with 81,570 U.S. sales over $40,000 in the first half of 2002. Cadillac, with 74,709, was the runner-up. And Lincoln, 68,128, was third. BMW, the apparent winner of the overall luxury title, was fourth with an estimated 63,871 sales over $40,000.
I say "apparent winner" because the result has been challenged. Mercedes has accused BMW of cooking the books on its June U.S. sales and reporting a figure that was 2,399 too high. BMW said it isn't so.
You'd think Lexus would complain, not Mercedes, since BMW beat Lexus by only 479 sales in the first half.
If what Mercedes charges is true, it would be the second blot on luxury sales reporting in recent years. Cadillac lied about its sales in December 1998 to "beat" Lincoln for the year and retain first place in the luxury class. Cadillac later admitted its lie, but it was too late to save a big advertising campaign that Lincoln had planned to celebrate its victory.