DETROIT -- BMW AG's BMW brand in August widened its sales lead over Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz and Toyota Motor Corp.'s Lexus brand, delivering the most luxury models in the U.S. for a fifth straight month.
BMW's U.S. sales, helped by deliveries of the new 5-series sedan and X3 sport-utility vehicle, rose 6.5 percent last month compared with a year earlier to 20,815, the automaker said Thursday in a statement. The results bring BMW a step closer to being 2011's top-selling U.S. luxury brand and ending Lexus's 11-year streak.
Mercedes sales fell 1.9 percent to 18,477 in August while Lexus fell 7 percent to 18,103 as the Japanese make continued to suffer from inventory disruptions following the March earthquake and tsunami.
"This has been a very strange August for our industry with both difficult news and unfortunate events -- consumer confidence down and an earthquake, hurricane and floods in the Northeast," Jim O'Donnell, head of BMW of North America, said in a statement.
BMW expanded its sales lead for the year with a 12 percent increase through August to 155,929. Deliveries of Mercedes vehicles rose 6.1 percent to 148,409 in the U.S. while Lexus's fell 17 percent to 120,652. The results exclude Daimler's Sprinter vans and Smart cars and BMW's Mini brand, which aren't luxury vehicles.
BMW's surge in August included a 41 percent increase in sales of the 5-series models and deliveries of the X3 more than doubling to 2,382 from 892 a year earlier. BMW's incentive spending rose 21 percent compared with a year ago to an average of $3,566 while Mercedes spending fell 11 percent to $3,406, according to TrueCar.com, a Web site that tracks auto sales and prices.
BMW is being aggressive about its use of incentive spending, said Jesse Toprak, an industry analyst with TrueCar. He noticed a $299 a month lease special for a 3 series last month and figured BMW was subsidizing the estimated resale value by 10 percentage points to get to that level, he said.
"They're being aggressive: $299 a month for a 3 series versus what you're going to get for an Accord?" he said. "Of course you're going to get" a BMW. BMW is selling down 3-series inventory before offering a new version next year, as well as trying to secure the sales race victory over Mercedes, he said.
Lexus's return to full production is likely to mean more incentive spending in the luxury market during the last part of the year, said Kurt McNeil, Cadillac's vice president of sales.
"You're starting to see them stir up the luxury space," he said in a telephone interview. General Motors Co.'s Cadillac luxury brand sales rose 4.1 percent last month to 13,208, according to the automaker.
Among other luxury makes:
- U.S. deliveries of Volkswagen AG's Audi brand rose 11 percent to 10,201 vehicles last month, the company said in a statement.
- Porsche AG, which is merging with Volkswagen, sold 2,184 vehicles in the U.S., a 7.5 percent increase, the company said in an e-mail.
- Nissan Motor Co.'s Infiniti sold 9,024 vehicles, a 4.3 percent decline from a year earlier, said spokeswoman Katherine Zachary.
- Honda Motor Co. said in a statement that sales for its Acura brand fell 22 percent to 9,054 last month.
- Ford Motor Co. sold 8,006 Lincolns in August, a 25 percent increase from a year earlier, according to a statement from the automaker.
- Land Rover deliveries rose 10 percent to 2,807, while Jaguar sales fell 43 percent to 810, Tata Motors Ltd. said in an e-mailed statement.