New 3 helps BMW keep luxury crown
A redesigned 3 series that debuted in February made the difference as BMW won its second straight U.S. luxury sales crown in 2012 by 7,376 units over Mercedes-Benz.
Still, Mercedes-Benz USA easily could have sold 10,000 more ML and GL SUVs, said CEO Steve Cannon.
"I did not get that share of global production," he said.
BMW sold 281,460 vehicles in 2012, up 14 percent from a year earlier. Mercedes-Benz's sales totaled 274,084, a 12 percent increase.
BMW clinched the crown in December, with a 39 percent gain from the year-earlier month. Mercedes' sales rose 10 percent in December.
Ludwig Willisch, CEO of BMW of North America, said he could have sold more vehicles but supply was constrained for the first eight months of 2012.
"We had a tough time getting cars into this country," he said. "Our production sites around the world were humming at full speed."
BMW's win came down to strong sales of the 3 series. BMW sold 99,602 units in 2012 compared with 81,697 for the rival Mercedes-Benz C class.
And that was despite a slow ramp-up for the BMW. The all-wheel-drive model -- which represents about 50 percent of 3-series sales, did not arrive until late August.
Willisch said BMW kept incentives under control.
Lexus finished third in the U.S. luxury sales race with sales of 244,166 vehicles, up 23 percent from 2011. Before BMW won the title in 2011, Lexus had finished first for 11 straight years.
Willisch said growth in 2013 will be driven by the addition of diesel engines in the 3 series in the first half and in the 5 series by fall, marking the first time BMW will offer a diesel in the 5 series in the United States. BMW also will launch the redesigned 3-series coupe in the fall that will be renamed the 4 series.
Cannon expects to do well with the restyled E class due this spring, the redesigned S class in the fall and an all-new CLA front-wheel-drive compact in late 2013.
He said: "I like our product lineup in 2013 and I am not at all upset that BMW squeaked past us in the end."
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