ATLANTA -- Mercedes-Benz slipped further behind rival BMW in U.S. sales in November, but outgoing U.S. brand chief Steve Cannon says he won't pump up planned incentives in December to win the luxury-sales race.
BMW currently leads the luxury race, with just over 8,000 units separating it from a hard-charging No. 3 Lexus.
"Our competitors are out there very aggressive," said Cannon, who is leaving as CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA at the end of the year. "Look, we're going to have another record year -- we're not going to go crazy to try to buy a sales crown. If somebody wants to push harder, let them go for it."
Mercedes has a strong year-end advertising budget, plus deals on volume models that are "about as attractive as we make them throughout the year," said Cannon, who is taking a position as head of the company that owns the NFL's Atlanta Falcons. Mercedes' U.S. sales chief Dietmar Exler will take the CEO post effective Jan. 1.
Mercedes will need all that to make up for a crummy November, when the brand fell further behind BMW on a Mercedes-Benz luxury sales decline of 13 percent.
As a result, December began with BMW leading the luxury segment with 11-month sales of 311,398 vehicles, up 4.4 percent, followed by Mercedes-Benz with 308,885, up 4.2 percent and Lexus with 303,221, up 12 percent. The Mercedes-Benz tally excludes sales of the Sprinter commercial truck.
BMW won the U.S. luxury-sales crown in 2011, 2012 and 2014. Mercedes-Benz took it in 2013. Lexus had held it in 2000-10.
The November plunge was Mercedes' steepest monthly decline since July 2009.
Cannon attributed the slide to a shortage of vehicles in the hot compact crossover segment. The redesigned and renamed GLC went on sale Nov. 25, later than expected. The vehicle it replaced, the GLK, had "pretty much sold through," he said, leaving "the gap we fell into in the month of November."
The GLC is now out in the market in volume for December sales, he said.
Dealers also have complained about short supplies for the GLE, which went on sale in August, replacing the M-class midsize crossover. Cannon acknowledged that GLE inventory is "tight" because demand has been robust. He wouldn't provide specific supply data for the GLE but said production availability will be strong next year.
According to Automotive News Data Center estimates, Mercedes had a 42-day supply of light trucks on Dec. 1, up from 32 days on Nov. 1.
For the first 11 months of 2015, Mercedes-Benz's incentive spending rose 19 percent, according to TrueCar. But November spending dropped 6 percent, apparently reflecting a lack of vehicles that could take advantage of incentives.