DETROIT (Bloomberg) -- General Motors Co.'s Cadillac brand this year has had its biggest gain since 1976, when Gerald Ford was president, the U.S. celebrated its 200th birthday and "The Hustle" won a Grammy.
GM's luxury brand's deliveries gained 40 percent in May to 13,808 vehicles on demand for new ATS and XTS sedans, which accounted for 41 percent of deliveries. That was the brand's best May since 2007. Through May, Cadillac increased 38 percent to 69,750, the biggest year-to-date increase since 1976, when GM sold 135,258 Cadillacs, a 45 percent gain. "The Hustle" by Van McCoy was released in 1975 and won best pop instrumental performance at the 1976 Grammys.
"Think about that," Kurt McNeil, GM's vice president of sales operations, said today during a conference call. "We're talking about the days of disco, when Cadillac was strictly a U.S. brand back then, not one that's directly challenging the German luxury brands and gearing up to triple its sales in China over the next couple of years."
GM is counting on Cadillac to help increase profit with sales to higher-income buyers. The company is positioning Cadillac and Chevrolet as the automaker's two global brands, with Chevy for the mass market. Seventy percent of U.S. ATS customers are buying their first Cadillac while 50 percent are trading in a vehicle from another manufacturer, David Caldwell, a GM spokesman, said in an e-mail.
GM ranks No. 4 in U.S. luxury-vehicle sales, behind Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Toyota Motor Corp.'s Lexus.
Mercedes sales rose 9.8 percent to 24,713 last month, while BMW posted a 14 percent increase to 25,230. The May results narrow Mercedes's 2013 lead to 4,178 vehicles as the two German automakers compete for the sales crown BMW has held for two years, based on reported sales. Counting registrations, Mercedes topped BMW, according to researcher R.L. Polk & Co.
Mercedes sales for the year through May gained 11 percent to 117,535, Daimler said today in a statement. BMW's 2013 deliveries rose 8.2 percent to 113,357, the company said today in a statement. The results don't include Daimler's cargo vans and Smart cars and BMW's Mini brand, which aren't luxury vehicles.
BMW's sales of 3 series sedans rose 47 percent to 9,307, helped by the new 320i, which starts at $32,550. The model is attracting 60 percent of its buyers from other brands, including Honda Motor Co.'s Honda and Acura brands as well as Mazda Motor Corp., Ludwig Willisch, BMW's CEO for North America, said in an interview.
"The market is picking up and the mood is good," Willisch said. "It's all positive."
Mercedes's results were led by the C-class sedan, which rose 21 percent to 8,013, and the GL-class SUV, which rose 41 percent. Results were limited by inventory, as demand exceeds dealer supply, Steve Cannon, CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, said in an interview.
"Our biggest challenge is getting product into the market," Cannon said. "It's a good problem to have."
Lexus reported a 3.6 percent increase for May, to 22,229, as deliveries of the ES sedan more than doubled to 5,890. Lexus, which was the annual sales leader for 11 years until natural disasters in Asia curtailed 2011 output, said it has sold 97,060 vehicles this year through May, a 10 percent gain.