LUXURY: Mercedes closes in on another luxury sales crown
With one month to go in 2017, Mercedes-Benz appears to have back-to-back U.S. luxury sales crowns all but wrapped up with a 30,611-vehicle lead over second-place BMW.
Both of the leading German luxury brands posted sales increases in November. But No. 3 Lexus had sales tumble 6.7 percent last month, falling further behind BMW for the year. Lexus finished November trailing BMW by 1,761 vehicles through the first 11 months of the year.
As the brands gear up for what is typically the luxury segment's hottest month, Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Dietmar Exler said last week that he feels "carefully optimistic" going into the home stretch.
"It's never done until it's done," Exler told Automotive News. "There's always been surprises, but it's looking good."
Mercedes posted a 1.6 percent increase in luxury sales in November, finishing with 30,363 vehicles. Volume drivers last month included the C class, GLC and GLE. Year to date, Mercedes' luxury sales are down 2 percent to 302,043 vehicles. Mercedes claimed the luxury title in 2016, taking over from BMW.
With a 7.1 percent gain in November, BMW posted its largest monthly sales increase of the year. The company credited strong results for the 5 series, X5 and X3. November marked the first month of sales for the redesigned X3, the brand's popular compact crossover. Year to date, BMW sales are down 3.2 percent to 271,432 vehicles.
It's shaping up as an anticlimactic end to the year for luxury market watchers.
"December generally is a big month for luxury vehicle sales and sometimes a close horse race for luxury sales crown leadership," Autotrader executive analyst Michelle Krebs said. "Such a horse race doesn't seem to exist this year. Mercedes-Benz appears to have the crown in the bag. BMW is running a distant second and Lexus, which had a tough start to the year, is running behind BMW."
Incentives for luxury brands, including lease pull-ahead programs, are already pretty hefty, Krebs said. High numbers are expected to continue in December.
Eye-popping incentives in November included $30,000 in dealer cash for the 2017 Jaguar F-Type SVR, more than $27,000 in dealer cash on the Volvo XC90 T8 Excellence and more than $10,000 in dealer cash on Lexus LS and LX models, according to Autotrader parent Cox Automotive. Mercedes, BMW and Audi have been less aggressive on incentives.
Total U.S. luxury sales for November gained 2 percent to 178,257 deliveries.
Overall, U.S. luxury light-vehicle sales rose 0.4 percent to 1.8 million deliveries through November and outpaced the market's overall slight decline this year.
In addition to Mercedes and BMW, other luxury brands that posted sales increases in November were Acura, Infiniti, Audi, Genesis, Land Rover, Porsche and Volvo.
Infiniti on Monday reported its November U.S. sales popped up 7.5 percent to 13,026 vehicles. For the year to date, Infiniti ranks second behind Jaguar in U.S. luxury growth, with sales rising 14.1 percent to 137,036 vehicles.
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