Halfway into 2021, the horse race for the luxury crown has a new leader.
BMW galloped to the front in the second quarter, powered by strong demand for crossovers, and taking a first-half lead.
At the mid-year mark, BMW outsold German rival Mercedes-Benz by 7,348 units. That's quite a reversal of fortunes from a year ago when Mercedes had a 16,795 unit lead over BMW.
Mercedes also led after the first quarter, with Lexus No. 2 and BMW No. 3.
The luxury vehicle segment has roared back to life from the COVID lockdown doldrums a year ago. Total U.S. luxury sales rose 63 percent to 624,414 cars and light trucks in the second quarter, outpacing the broader industry's 49 percent increase, even amid tightening inventories. First-half luxury sales rose 42 percent.
BMW captured the U.S. luxury crown in 2019 and 2020 after Mercedes had a three-year run atop the rankings.
In the second quarter, BMW sold 96,561 vehicles, up 90 percent from a year earlier. Crossovers accounted for 60 percent of BMW's quarterly sales.
Lexus saw its sales climb 65 percent to 83,459 vehicles in the quarter. Lexus sold 28,703 RX midsize crossovers for the period — nearly half of the brand's total light-truck volume.
Mercedes-Benz, which had gotten off to a brisk start by taking the pole position in the first quarter, slipped to third place in the second quarter.
Mercedes delivered 82,390 vehicles, excluding commercial vans in the second quarter, up 39 percent from a year earlier. The midsize GLE crossover led, with sales of 19,037 sales, followed by the GLC compact crossover, with 14,580 deliveries.