BMW holds U.S. luxury sales lead over Mercedes in June

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DETROIT (Bloomberg) -- BMW won the June U.S. luxury sales race and widened its lead over the Mercedes-Benz brand and No. 3 Lexus during the first six months. 

Last month, BMW sold 30,201 vehicles, a 12 percent increase, helped by the 5-series sedan, which surged 77 percent to 7,940 deliveries. Mercedes sales  rose 9 percent to 26,506, helped by a 25 percent gain to 6,500 for the E-class sedan.

For the first half, the BMW brand sold 157,382 vehicles -- up 12 percent -- for a lead of 5,758 over Mercedes, which reported 151,624 deliveries.

Sales figures for the two brands don’t include Daimler’s cargo vans and Smart cars and BMW’s Mini brand, which aren’t luxury vehicles.

The Lexus brand posted a June increase of 10 percent to 23,518. Sales more than doubled to 3,932 for the entry-level IS, the company said in a statement. For the year, sales have risen 17 percent to 138,689.

Meanwhile, Audi’s U.S. sales climbed 23 percent for its best June ever, as the the brand attracts younger customers with its revamped A3 sedan.

Total deliveries rose to 16,867, including 2,452 A3s, the German automaker said in a statement today. Audi also reported gains of 15 percent from a year earlier for the Q5 SUV and 4 percent for the A4 sedan.

Audi posted its 42nd straight monthly sales record, reaching first-half deliveries of 84,349 cars and SUVs, more than its annual total just five years ago.

Audi making headway

While BMW, Mercedes and Lexus still lead in U.S. luxury sales, Audi is luring buyers in a crucial market for the segment: younger owners new to the brand, said Jesse Toprak, an analyst at Cars.com.

“Audi right now is in the state of really catching on and becoming fashionable in the luxury market,” Toprak said in an interview. “Buyers in key, high-volume luxury markets, especially first-time buyers, prefer Audi more and more because it’s more unique. Not as many people have it.”

Audi has about 11.5 percent of the U.S. market for imported luxury autos, rising from 10 percent pre-A3, Scott Keogh, president of Audi America, told reporters on a conference call to discuss June sales. Since the April introduction of the revamped A3, which has a starting price of $29,900, Audi has jumped to fourth place in U.S. luxury sales, passing General Motors Co.’s Cadillac and Honda Motor Co.’s Acura brands.

“Luxury is not an in-between place,” Keogh said. “The middle ground is a very tough place to be. You need to have the strong brand first. Everything else follows that.”

GM’s Cadillac reported a 0.1 percent increase to 13,941, with advances of 19 percent to 4,652 for the SRX SUV and 84 percent to 1,907 for the Escalade SUV. Sales of the ATS sedan, winner of last year’s North American Car of the Year award, fell 32 percent to 2,358, GM said.

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