NEW YORK -- Mercedes-Benz led U.S. sales of luxury autos in April, solidifying its top spot ahead of Toyota Motor Corp.'s Lexus and the BMW brand as demand for SUVs stayed strong.
Deliveries rose 0.2 percent to an April record 29,236 vehicles for Daimler's Mercedes, paced by a 45 percent surge for its GLC and GLK SUVs, according to a statement on Tuesday.
Sales fell 7.4 percent to 24,882 for Lexus and declined at the same rate to 24,951 for BMW's namesake brand.
Greater fuel efficiency and readily available credit are helping to drive demand for luxury SUVs as cheaper gasoline and low unemployment boost buyer appetites. Sales of Lexus SUVs climbed 20 percent in April, including a 29 surge for the RX, the brand’s best-selling model. BMW reported a 9.7 percent drop for its SUVs.
“We absolutely think there’s no end in sight to the surge in sport utility sales,” Michelle Krebs, senior analyst for researcher Autotrader.com, said in a phone interview before the results. “Traditional luxury cars have struggled, whereas the growth has all come in the utility parts of the business and we don’t see that that will change.”
A number of luxury SUVs are also fetching higher average transaction prices, Krebs said.
Mercedes’s April gain extended its lead over Lexus through the year’s first four months to more than 5,000 vehicles. BMW is in third, after claiming the annual U.S. luxury sales title in 2015.
Dietmar Exler, CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, said the brand is “heading into a strong second-quarter with a minimum of nine new model launches in the months ahead. We expect to see strong sales momentum as we move into the summer months.”
The sales figures don’t include BMW’s Mini models or Daimler’s work trucks and Smart cars, which aren’t luxury vehicles.