(Bloomberg) -- BMW AG's namesake luxury brand increased U.S. sales 16 percent in July to close the gap among top-selling luxury brands with Toyota Motor Corp.'s Lexus, which was little changed amid recalls.
BMW sales rose to 19,064, the Munich-based automaker said today. Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz sold 17,367 vehicles, up 7 percent from a year earlier. Lexus reported an increase of less than 1 percent to 18,595.
Revamped models such as BMW's 5 Series sedans and Mercedes's E-Class cars have helped the two brands gain on Lexus. The Toyota division has been hurt by the automaker's record recalls in the past year, including Lexus models such as the LS 460 sedan and GX 460 sport-utility vehicle.
“Right when Lexus is hitting a weak spot, plenty of other cars are able to swoop in and take market share,” said Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst at Edmunds.com, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based provider of industry data. “Talk about a three-horse race -- it's really close.”
Through last month, Lexus sold 126,025 cars and light trucks, compared with 121,041 for Mercedes and 119,696 for the BMW brand.
BMW gained on Lexus for the second straight month, as it moves toward its goal of passing Lexus for top rank in U.S. luxury sales by 2012. Lexus has led since 2000, Caldwell said.
BMW sold 9.6 percent more 5 Series sedans and 51 percent more X5 SUVs in July than a year earlier.
Mercedes C-Class sales surged 19 percent for the month.
Lexus was hurt by a 9.4 percent slide in demand for its cars, while deliveries of its SUVs rose 12 percent.
Sales through July increased 16 percent from a year earlier for Lexus, 8.9 percent for BMW and 19 percent for Mercedes. They are benefiting as sales of luxury vehicles recover faster than the U.S. auto market as a whole, said Jesse Toprak, an analyst at TrueCar.com in Santa Monica.
“A lot of people who wanted to buy luxury vehicles in the past two years postponed their decision because it didn't feel right in hard times,” Toprak said. “These people still want the latest technology. There's a lot of pent-up demand.”
Sales of luxury vehicles didn't have the same artificial surge as less expensive models during the U.S. government's “cash for clunkers” rebate program in July and August 2009, Roger Penske, chief executive officer of retailer Penske Automotive Group Inc., said last week.
Third-quarter luxury sales should be “as good or better than last year,” Penske said on a July 29 conference call.
For last month, sales at Detroit-based General Motors Co.'s Cadillac brand more than doubled from a year earlier to 14,919 vehicles, led by a more-than-eightfold gain for the SRX sport- utility vehicle.
“Cadillac's product lineup is the best they've ever had, by far,” Toprak said.
Lincoln, Ford Motor Co.'s luxury unit, said it sold 5,586 cars and light trucks for the month, a 16 percent decline. Sales slid 20 percent for the MKS sedan and 78 percent for the Town Car, which the Dearborn, Michigan-based company is phasing out.
Acura, Honda Motor Co.'s luxury brand, said July sales rose 50 percent to 13,017. The Tokyo-based automaker's gains included a 70 percent jump for its top-selling vehicle, the MDX SUV, to 4,194 units.
Nissan Motor Co. reported Infiniti deliveries of 9,764 vehicles, 38 percent higher than a year earlier.
Volkswagen AG said its Audi division's sales increased 22 percent to 7,817 vehicles, including an 89 percent surge for the Q5 SUV.
Porsche SE reported a 75 percent sales gain to 2,703 cars and SUVs. That was a two-year high, the Stuttgart, Germany-based automaker said in a statement.
Tata Motors Ltd.'s Land Rover brand posted a 26 percent increase in sales to 2,292 vehicles. The Mumbai-based company's Jaguar division sold 1,516 vehicles for the month, up 93 percent from a year earlier as the XJ sedan reached showrooms.