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Lexus Continues to Sneak Up on BMW in Luxury Sales Race

Lexus Continues to Sneak Up on BMW in Luxury Sales Race

By Philly Murtha, September 21, 2015

Lexus, a perennial high-performing brand in J.D. Power Initial Quality (IQS) and Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) results, is narrowing the gap in this year’s race for the U.S. luxury brand sales crown. This is a newsworthy development, since BMW or Mercedes-Benz brands have captured the annual sales title during each of the past four years, after Lexus lost its 11-year crown.

Through the first 8 months of 2015, BMW holds a slim lead of just 1,197 units, according to sales data collected by J.D. Power and auto forecasting partner LMC Automotive. BMW (+1.9%) has delivered 223,348 units year to date. Lexus (+6%) ranks second with 222,151 unit sales, followed by Mercedes-Benz (+9.9%), which has delivered 220,870 units (not including Sprinter van sales) and is only 1,281 units behind the luxury brand from Japan. Rounding out this year’s premium top five in sales are Audi (130,063 units) and Acura (117,315 units). Both brands celebrated double-digit year-to-date sales increases (Audi, up 13%, and Acura, up 10.8%).

In August, Lexus was buoyed by a second consecutive month as the premium sales leader with a margin of 5,100 units over BMW on sales of 33,487 units. Mercedes-Benz was second in August and BMW ranked third, respectively. The top five premium brands last month also included Audi and Cadillac. All five top premium brands except for Cadillac posted sales gains in August over the same month in 2014.

BMW and Lexus lineups both include 11 models. Each brand markets six premium car and five SUV or crossover models. BMW’s best-seller remains the 3 Series compact premium car model, which also holds the title of best-selling luxury model in the U.S. market. In August, 3 Series deliveries were up in double digits from a year ago. Year-to-date sales of the 3 Series rose to 60,405 units, up 6.6% from the same period in 2014.

Lexus was right behind BMW with the second-best-selling premium model. Sales of its RX-Series of midsize premium SUVs surged by 10%, to 59,017 unit sales vs. 53,609 units in the first 8 months of 2014. The third-best-selling premium model was the Mercedes-Benz C-Class compact premium car, with deliveries rising to 56,875 units. In August, C-Class deliveries roared ahead by 39% from a year ago. The Germany-based automaker’s C-Class is the only one of the top three premium models to be made in the United States at Mercedes’ plant in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

It’s also noteworthy that three of the 10 best-selling luxury models year to date are Lexus models—the RX-Series SUV and two car models: the Lexus ES and the Lexus IS, while BMW boasts only two models in the top 10—the 3 Series and the X5 midsize premium SUV. Six of the 10 best-selling premium models this year are utility vehicles and only four are premium car models.

The introduction of the new Lexus NX SUV may be boosting interest and demand for the brand this year. In August, nearly 4,500 NX utilities were delivered. This model and others from BMW and Mercedes are priced in the $34,000-$35,000 suggested retail range to attract younger consumers.

Just this week, Lexus also took the wraps off its redesigned 2016 RX 350 and gas-electric hybrid RX 450h at the Frankfurt Motor Show. It bears similar cues to the angular lines of the new IS and the NX.
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