Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

Mercedes and BMW Turn It On in Final Weeks


It’s been a while since we’ve seen true horse race for the top luxury auto brand in the U.S.

Jim R. Bounds | Bloomberg | Getty Images

In fact, since the late 90’s, Lexus has routinely won the title of being #1.

But the problems with supply at Lexus, means this year there will be a new king of the hill in the U.S. luxury market and the winner will be decided in the next two weeks.

Here are the numbers through November:

• BMW 221, 073

• Mercedes 219,491

• LEXUS 173,197

• Cadillac 136,130

• Acura 110,140

• Audi 104,906

A couple of things to keep in mind with these figures.

• The Mercedes number does not include its Freightliner or Sprinter sales. Freightliner is commercial truck line and Sprinter vans are primarily used for commercial purposes.

• The Mercedes and BMW figures do not include Smart or MINI brand sales.

So who has the advantage heading into the last two weeks? The big winner is the person looking for a luxury car right now. The top three are all being aggressive pushing deals that will help them close out the year on a high note. For example, Lexus has been running a promotion where it pays the first month on a new lease.

Mercedes is running its “Winter Event”, pushing financing offers including 0.9% for 37-66 months on select C-Class, E-Class, GLK-Class, and M-Class. Mercedes had a red hot November with sales skyrocketing 40.4% and from talking with some of the larger dealership groups who sell both Mercedes and BMW models say Mercedes is having a very strong December. Of note, is the demand for the ML-Class, which is up 17.4% for the year.

BMW is countering with its own special financing offers including 0.9% through 24 months for all 2012 models and $3,500 option allowance for the 6 and 7 series. Dealers tell me BMW is enjoying a solid December and there’s no reason it shouldn’t hold off Mercedes to finish the year #1.

Whenever I do this story, I always hear from people who say, “who cares?” Their point being the general public doesn’t care which brand is #1 and which one is #2. True, it’s primarily for bragging rights and perhaps some marketing fun. That won’t stop Mercedes and BMW from pulling out the stops in the last 10 days of the year to claim the title as #1 luxury auto brand.


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