Mercedes Benz Increases Its U.S. Luxury Lead Over BMW On Strong CLA Sales

U.S. luxury-vehicle sales barely grew in May, up 0.5 percent to 168,126 units, weighed down by hefty declines at the top three luxury brands despite increases at other luxury makes.

Mercedes-Benz, despite posting an 8.2 percent decline (excluding commercial van sales), widened its lead for the top spot in U.S. luxury sales over chief rival BMW, which reported an 11 percent drop for the month. Through May, Mercedes is nearly 13,000 vehicles ahead of BMW.

But Mercedes did lose the year-to-date sales gain it had at the end of April. Through the first five months of the year, the brand's luxury sales are now down 1 percent to 132,966 vehicles.

"High demand combined with short supplies on some of our most popular models (GLC, CLA and GLA) during the new model changeover created some challenges," Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Dietmar Exler said. "With 2018 models, particularly CLA and GLA, now arriving in dealer showrooms, we expect to be back on track for a strong year."

The brand's volume leaders in May included the C-class, GLE and E-class lines.

BMW deliveries fell to 25,818 in May as the performance of the brand's car lines continued to plunge. BMW's sales for the year to date are down 3.6 percent to 120,124. Bright spots last month were the redesigned 5-series sport sedan, which increased 13 percent, and BMW's small crossovers, the X1, up 13 percent, and the X3, up 22 percent.

"Our all-new BMW 5 Series is now showing its strength as availability increases and production begins to match demand," BMW of North America CEO Bernhard Kuhnt said in a statement. "At the same time, demand for BMW sports activity vehicles remains solid with the X1 and the X3 delivering the standout numbers for May."

No. 3 Lexus posted sales of 25,401 vehicles in May, down 4.8 percent. The decline was driven by much-lower Lexus car sales, which fell 21 percent. Lexus touted sales of its crossovers and SUVs, however, saying the 7.5 percent increase for those lines made for the best-ever May results for the brand's utility vehicles.

Mercedes, BMW and Lexus were the only three mainstream luxury brands to post declines in May, according to the Automotive News Data Center. Luxury brands with big improvements in May included Jaguar, up 44 percent; Infiniti, up 16 percent; Volvo, up 12 percent; and Cadillac, up 9.2 percent.

Luxury brands commanded a bigger share of the U.S. market as overall U.S. sales were off 0.5 percent.

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