SOUTHFIELD, Michigan -- Mercedes-Benz outsold BMW in the U.S. by more than 5,000 vehicles last month, coming within 1,600 units of the lead in annual deliveries of luxury automobiles.
Mercedes deliveries, helped by a refreshed C-class sedan and redesigned M-class SUV, rose 47 percent to 26,796 in November, topping BMW for a second straight month.
BMW's U.S. sales rose 7 percent in November to 21,521.
With November's results, BMW's lead for the year narrowed to 1,582 units over Mercedes. BMW sales have risen 12 percent to 221,073 in 11 months.
Deliveries of Mercedes vehicles through November rose 12 percent to 219,491 in the U.S.
The two automakers are vying to replace Lexus, which has been the annual U.S. luxury sales leader for the past 11 years.
"It's going to be a very close race," said Jesse Toprak, an industry analyst with TrueCar.com, a U.S. Web site that tracks auto sales. "Based on the current momentum, I think that Benz has a good chance of winning the race this year."
A March earthquake and tsunami in Japan have not helped Lexus sales this year, restricting supplies of Lexus cars and SUVs to the U.S. market. The brand's year-to-date sales fell 14 percent to 173,197. In November, Lexus increased U.S. deliveries by 6.7 percent to 19,458 units.
BMW looked 'unreachable'
Mercedes surge "is somewhat surprising," Toprak said. "I thought BMW had a strong hold based upon earlier this year. They seemed unreachable."
The results exclude Daimler's Sprinter vans and Smart cars and BMW's Mini brand, which aren't luxury vehicles.
Mercedes's product lineup got a boost in September when it began selling a new M class and refreshed C class. The automaker also began offering a two-door version of the C class to compete against BMW's 3-series lineup. C-class sales in November more than doubled to 8,358 from 3,930, the company said. M-class deliveries rose 38 percent to 4,796.
"By good fortune we have strong availability of brand-new product at a time when the wind shifted slightly in the marketplace," Steve Cannon, Mercedes vice president of U.S. marketing, said on Thursday.
Mercedes is pushing the C class with lease deals, Toprak added. "They're creating a lot of volume play with the cheap leases they are putting out there," he said.
While December is traditionally Mercedes best-selling month, Cannon said that topping BMW's sales was not a major priority. "December will look like November," he said. "It's going to be close. "We have no mandate from Stuttgart that says beat BMW," Cannon said. "If BMW wants to throw everything but the kitchen sink to hold onto a sales crown, we're not going to duke it out with them," he added.
U.S. deliveries of Audi, a close competitor of both BMW and Mercedes, rose 3.6 percent to 9,700 vehicles last month. With 104,906 sales through November, the brand exceeded 100,000 U.S. deliveries for the second straight year.
Porsche sold 2,255 vehicles in the U.S., a 6.7 percent decrease, the company said.
General Motors Co.'s Cadillac luxury brand sales fell 5.6 percent last month to 11,145, according to the automaker. Nissan Motor Co.'s Infiniti sold 8,428 vehicles, 3 percent more than a year earlier, the company said.
Honda said sales for its Acura brand fell 7.5 percent to 9,909 last month. Land Rover deliveries rose 31 percent to 3,820, while Jaguar sales dropped 18 percent to 915, said Autodata Corp., an industry researcher.