Helped by its best September ever, Lexus pulled closer to BMW for the No. 2 spot in the luxury sales race for 2017, while Mercedes-Benz stayed solidly on top despite a September skid in sales.
U.S. sales of luxury vehicles rebounded in September after Hurricane Harvey and inventory shortages hurt August sales. Overall luxury sales rose 4.9 percent last month to 174,504 vehicles. The luxury market continued to underperform the overall industry, which posted a 6.3 percent boost for total U.S. light-vehicle sales last month. All luxury brands posted sales gains in September with the exception of Mercedes.
Mercedes' sales, excluding the Sprinter and Metris commercial vans, declined 1.7 percent in September to 29,008 vehicles. Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Dietmar Exler said last month's sales were disrupted by the hurricanes that affected Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.
Despite the disruption, the brand's SUV and crossover sales are "seeing continued positive development," Exler said in a statement, with the GLE and GLC, plus the C class, leading Mercedes in volume in September.
"We expect to regain momentum in the final quarter of the year with the launch of the new S-Class sedan, AMG models and continued demand for our SUV lineup," Exler said.
Even with the September dip, Mercedes remains solidly in the luxury leadership spot with 242,250 luxury vehicles sold through the first nine months of 2017, more than 22,000 vehicles ahead of BMW.
But the battle for No. 2 is heating up.
Despite pulling off a 0.7 percent gain in September, BMW's hold on the runner-up spot was cut by more than half during the month as Lexus managed a 1.5 percent gain. BMW is hanging on to a 516-vehicle edge over Lexus to start October, down from the 1,141-vehicle edge it had at the beginning of September.
BMW touted strong gains for the 4 series and 5 series in September, plus a solid increase for the X5.
"The hot summer has given way to autumn and an uptick in sales, fueled in part by continued strong demand for the new 5 series, as well as demand in Texas and Florida where customers are now replacing their flood and hurricane damaged vehicles," BMW of North America CEO Bernhard Kuhnt said in a statement. "We are also anticipating growth in our sports activity vehicles as expansion at our X model plant in South Carolina means we'll have more X5s this month followed by the eagerly awaited introduction of the all-new X3 in November."
Lexus kept the pressure on BMW by indicating it expects strong results for the rest of the year.
"Lexus sales traditionally shift into high gear as we head toward the end of the year, and we are buoyed by three consecutive months of sales momentum as well as our best-ever September," Jeff Bracken, Lexus general manager, said in a statement. "Going forward we have a strong supply of luxury utility vehicles to satisfy customers' needs through the remainder of 2017."
Some luxury brands saw big jumps in September. Reporting double-digit percentage increases last month were Genesis, Volvo, Jaguar, Land Rover, Porsche and Infiniti.