Mercedes-Benz, trailing BMW by a narrow 1,830-vehicle margin following record sales in November, has one month to overtake its German rival and retain its crown as the No. 1 luxury brand in the United States.
Last year, Mercedes edged out BMW by 3,248 sales.
Mercedes, led by the rebooted S class, sold 34,578 units in November for a 1 percent gain from the year-earlier period. For the purposes of tallying sales by luxury brands, Sprinter van sales of 2,532 are excluded from the Mercedes tally.
BMW sold 31,019 vehicles in November -- down 2 percent from last year.
Meanwhile, No. 4 Audi had the biggest percentage gain among luxury brands, up 22 percent. No. 8 Lincoln grew 21 percent. Sales at No. 3 Lexus rose 7 percent.
Luxury sales were flat in November in an overall U.S. market that rose 5 percent.
The stage is set for a fierce sales duel between Mercedes and BMW in December.
“It’s going to be very, very close. They’re going to pull out all the stops,” said IHS automotive loyalty consultant Tom Libby. “They’re going to be using incentives at an incredible rate right up through the end of the last day. They both want it. Frankly, it’s going to be a great time for consumers to buy or lease one of the brands."
Said Steve Cannon, CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, in a statement: "November was one for the history books at Mercedes-Benz. Beyond record sales, our rise to the top spot in J.D. Power's Sales Satisfaction Index shows our efforts on the customer experience front are resonating with owners."
Sales of the Mercedes S class rose 50 percent in November after 2,863 units were sold.
The M-class SUV posted a 20 percent gain last month with of sales of 5,190, while C-class sales jumped 18 percent to 9,259.
BMW’s combined 3- and 4-series sales were up 12 percent to 14,702. The 7 series rose 14 percent to 704 units.
X3 crossover sales fell 45 percent to 2,221. The 5 series also waned, dropping 39 percent to 3,105.
“The traffic in our showrooms was very strong in November, especially over the Thanksgiving weekend, and I expect that momentum to continue in December and carry us to an all-time sales record at the end of 2014,” said Ludwig Willisch, CEO of BMW of North America.
Lexus and Audi
Lexus recorded its best November sales ever after moving 27,472 vehicles.
Lexus sales through November are tracking 14 percent higher than the year-earlier period.
The CT hybrid, with 1,322 units sold, led the way with a 37 percent year-over-year sales boost. The GX SUV had a sales spike with a 25 percent rise to 2,043.
IS sedan sales also improved, jumping 21 percent to 4,610 units. GS sedan sales were up 20 percent to finish at 1,836 units.
“Lexus set an all-time November sales record thanks in part to the momentum surrounding the arrival of the newest edition to the lineup, the RC coupes,” said Steve Hearne, Lexus vice president for sales and dealer development, in a statement.
Libby said Lexus’ rise has been impressive because it wasn’t competing in the booming compact crossover space until it launched the NX. The NX was slated to go on sale Dec. 1, but a Toyota spokesman said a few units "got out early."
Lexus sold 22 NX compact crossovers last month.
“They haven’t been in that market. If you consider that, you have to give Lexus a huge amount of credit," Libby said.
Audi’s momentum continued in November with a 47th consecutive month of record U.S. sales. Audi also surpassed its annual sales record in November with a month to go in 2014.
The Audi Q5 crossover had a 17 percent gain last month, with sales of 4,184 units.
"Audi is making consistent progress in the upper echelon of America’s premium automobile segment," said Mark Del Rosso, COO of Audi of America, in a statement. "These gains reflect the benefits of a brand strategy built on sustainable sales growth, a network of passionate dealers, balanced pricing and, of course, compelling new models."