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Mercedes SUV gains help widen US sales lead over Lexus, BMW

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Mercedes-Benz led US sales of luxury autos in April, solidifying its top spot ahead of Toyota Motor Corp's Lexus and the BMW brand as demand for sport utility vehicles stayed strong.

[NEW YORK] Mercedes-Benz led US sales of luxury autos in April, solidifying its top spot ahead of Toyota Motor Corp's Lexus and the BMW brand as demand for sport utility vehicles stayed strong.

Deliveries rose 0.2 per cent to an April record 29,236 vehicles for Daimler AG's Mercedes, paced by a 45 per cent surge for its GLC and GLK SUVs, according to a statement Tuesday.

Sales fell 7.4 per cent to 24,882 for Lexus and declined at the same rate to 24,951 for BMW AG's namesake brand.

Greater fuel efficiency and readily available credit are helping to drive demand for luxury SUVs as cheaper gasoline and low unemployment boost buyer appetites.

Sales of Lexus's sport utility vehicles climbed 20 per cent in April, including a 29 surge for the RX, the brand's best-selling model. BMW reported a 9.7 per cent drop for its SUVs.

"We absolutely think there's no end in sight to the surge in sport utility sales," Michelle Krebs, senior analyst for researcher Autotrader.com, said in a phone interview before the results.

"Traditional luxury cars have struggled, whereas the growth has all come in the utility parts of the business and we don't see that that will change." A number of luxury SUVs are also fetching higher average transaction prices, Ms Krebs said.

Mercedes's April gain extended its lead over Lexus through the year's first four months to more than 5,000 vehicles. BMW is in third, after claiming the annual US luxury sales title in 2015.

Dietmar Exler, chief executive officer of Mercedes-Benz USA, said the brand is "heading into a strong second-quarter with a minimum of nine new model launches in the months ahead. We expect to see strong sales momentum as we move into the summer months."

The sales figures don't include BMW's Mini models or Daimler's work trucks and Smart cars, which aren't luxury vehicles.

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