MUNICH -- Mercedes-Benz extended its lead in a race with BMW for the luxury-car sales crown, as a series of new models position it to overtake its rival for the first time in a decade.
A jump in deliveries of SUVs and crossovers helped Mercedes increase sales almost twice as fast as BMW in the first nine months, expanding the Daimler unit's lead to 57,985 cars, according to data released by the manufacturers.
Sales of Mercedes brand cars jumped 12 percent to 211,286 vehicles last month, lifting the nine-month total by 12 percent to 1.53 million, the automaker said last week.
BMW brand deliveries rose 9.4 percent to 197,419 cars in September, boosting the nine-month total by 6 percent to 1.47 million vehicles, the company said in a statement today.
Audi slipped further back in third place with September sales of 173,850, a rise of 1.7 percent, and year-to-date deliveries of 1.40 million cars, a 4.5 percent gain.
Mercedes is poised to achieve its 2020 target of unseating BMW Group's namesake brand as the world's biggest seller of premium vehicles already this year, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said this week, which would put Mercedes back on top for the first time since 2005.
Mercedes is winning over customers with a recently updated line-up of models that appeal to younger buyers, including the GLC and GLA SUVs. BMW is responding with a revamp of its 5-series sedan to rival Mercedes's popular E class, adding new self-driving features that control speed, help drivers stay in lane and keep distance to nearby cars.
BMW has downplayed the impending loss of the No. 1 spot, shifting its view to maximizing profit and fund investments in new technologies. "Profitability remains our primary focus," BMW's head of sales Ian Robertson said in its statement today.
Luxury-car makers are racing to compete on self-driving innovations while also having to spend more on developing electric cars to meet increasingly tough emissions regulation.
BMW, Mercedes and Audi last month outlined a major push into electric cars, which will add to their research-and-development costs. After hiking investment in plants, equipment and new technology from a peak this year, Daimler plans to rein back spending in the years ahead, CEO Zetsche said this week.