Thursday, December 29, 2011

Luxury sales crown still up for grabs

 Mercedes-Benz and BMW are locked in a tight duel for the honor of being the top luxury brands sold in the United States.
  Publicly at least both BMW and Mercedes-Benz executives are playing down the importance of the crown, which is a highly visible symbol of automotive supremacy.
  “We’re not going to chase the title with incentives,” Mercedes Benz USA new chief executive Steve Cannon told reporters during a luncheon in Detroit.
 However, Cannon also noted Mercedes has completely overhauled its product line in the U.S. this year and the latest models such as the new C-Class Coupe and M-Class are now available at dealers across the U.S., bolstering chances for strong sales in December as well, Cannon said.
 Ian Robertson, BMW Board member for sales and marketing, also said the German automaker was pleased with its position. “This was our best ever November sales month, “ he noted at the beginning of December. The U.S. has recorded positive sales growth for BMW, Robertson said.
 BMW also ramped up is incentive spending as the sales duel intensified.  Starting November 1, BMW  began offering a finance credit  of up to $2,500, on its some of its most  popular models, including 3 Series and 5 Series Sedan and X5 crossover vehicles. However, Mercedes has increased its incentives by 57 percent this year, according to estimates from TrueCar. com.
   For the past 11 years, the luxury vehicle sales title has been the property of Toyota’s Lexus Division,  which has been hobbled during this year’s race by the fallout from Japan’s Great Northeastern earthquake and tsunami, which hobbled Japanese industry for months.
  Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst, noted recently, “ I anticipate Lexus will push its iconic 'December to Remember' message hard next month in the hopes of  closing the gap with Mercedes-Benz and BMW, though there is no chance Lexus will keep its leader status this year.
 Joseph Phillippi, an independent analysts based in New Jersey, said the March earthquake wasn’t the only reason for Lexus decline. Both Mercedes-Benz and BMW have invested heavily in new vehicles designed to fit in more market niches, Phillippi said. Lexus hasn’t kept pace. The rise of Audi also has cut into Lexus, he said.
 The race is expected to close, a genuine side-by-side, wheel-to-wheel sprint to the finish.
 Right now BMW holds a slight lead but Mercedes-Benz’s sales in the U.S. surged during November, climbing more than 40 percent. Sales of BMW-brand vehicles climbed  only 7 percent, leaving it clinging to slender lead of only 1,500 units. BMW has 221,073 vehicles, while Mercedes has sold
219,491, according to the latest sales figures from both companies.
 Jesse Toprak of True also predicts a Mercedes-Benz victory. Based on our December forecasts, MB will sell a total of 265,325 units vs.
247,399 of BMW in 2011.
 “Our December sales forecast projects that Mercedes will squeak out a victory by about a thousand units. Still, that number is unofficial, and at least for the moment, the race remains too close to call,”  Aaron Lewis, Edmund’s com analyst, said in a e-mail.
 “In any case, it's definitely very exciting that the race between these two is coming right down to the wire,” Lewis said. By Joseph Szczesny


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