CHICAGO -- Mercedes-Benz will snatch the U.S. luxury-sales crown from BMW in 2013, said Steve Cannon, CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA.
"We're going to have a great year," Cannon said last week after a presentation at an event here honoring the 2013 Automotive News 100 Best Dealerships To Work For. "And when we beat BMW, it will be based on natural sales [and] great execution."
The prediction is a bold one. Mercedes is clinging to a lead of fewer than 3,000 units through September. But Cannon said Mercedes will win on the back of sales of the redesigned S-class sedan and the new CLA compact sedan -- and without a late-year incentive splurge.
Mercedes was ahead this time last year, too, and held an 1,800-unit margin over BMW going into December. But BMW outsold its rival by more than 9,000 units in the final month of 2012 to take the luxury title for the second year in a row.
Cannon said Mercedes will not have a "last-minute sale" to outsell BMW this year.
"We're not going to play that game. No shenanigans," Cannon said. "We're a shenanigan-free environment."
The rivals traded insults after BMW topped Mercedes last year with its December surge. Mercedes executives accused BMW of padding sales numbers by including vehicles that dealers bought as loaner vehicles. BMW denied fixing the figures, and it said Mercedes has done so in the past.
BMW wouldn't comment on Cannon's remarks; a spokesman wrote in an e-mail: "It's been a competitive year and we're very happy. BMW is heading for a record year in the U.S. with the new 4 series and the new X5 adding to our momentum in the fourth quarter. We'll see the final results in January. It's not our practice to comment on the business of our competitors."
BMW was tops in U.S. luxury sales in 2012 and 2011. Before winning in 2011, Lexus had finished first for 11 straight years.
Last year, BMW sold 281,460 vehicles in the United States compared with Mercedes-Benz's 274,084 and Lexus' sales of 244,166. Mercedes-Benz was last No. 1 in the segment in 1999.
Through September of this year, Mercedes-Benz was tops with 215,056 sales. BMW is second with 212,565. Lexus is in third place with 190,760.
Cannon said this year the automaker will set an all-time sales record in the United States.
The new S class is helping propel sales, Cannon said. And the sporty CLA entry-level compact sedan, priced at $30,825, including shipping, is bringing new buyers into showrooms, he said.
"The new value price point for Mercedes-Benz out there is connecting to Gen Y buyers, opening up the brand to more people," he said.
The front-wheel-drive CLA went on sale last month. Cannon has called it Mercedes-Benz's conquest vehicle, with a target of 30,000 annual U.S. sales within a few years.
Mercedes-Benz is aiming for a similar annual volume for the GLA crossover, which goes on sale next September, he said. Both vehicles are based on a new platform that's also being used for the B-class Electric Drive plug-in, which arrives in the United States early next year. That vehicle is sold with other powertrains in other markets, but it will be sold exclusively in the United States as an electric vehicle.
The only variant the United States did not take was the smaller A-class hatchback.
BMW's current 1-series coupe and convertible will go on sale next year as the 2 series. An all-new 1-series sedan will debut in 2017. Audi's A3 sedan goes on sale later this year.