Luxury race in the U.S. – Lexus is now on top image

With huge numbers for August – a vacation month – the U.S. auto market is on its way to setting a record year, which is also very true for the lucrative premium segment. Here, the race is a Japanese-European one, with German DNA.

Lexus, the top-selling luxury-auto brand in the U.S. for 11 years through 2010, posted a 23 percent increase in August for its first monthly win in a year. Deliveries rose to 29,792, Toyota said yesterday in a statement. For the year, the Toyota brand still trails BMW, the annual leader for the past two years, and Mercedes.

Mercedes-Benz reported sales were 24,761, up 20.5% from a year ago. Year-to-date, the Mercedes brand is up 13% to a record 190,359 – with two big new products set to launch this month, a new, cheaper entry model and a redo of its high-end S models.

“The market is continuing to pick up steam, our sales momentum is on record pace and we have two major new products hitting the market in the next few weeks,” said Steve Cannon, CEO of MBUSA in a statement. “At $29,900 the CLA will open a whole new gateway to the Mercedes-Benz brand, and our next generation S-Class will redefine the standards of luxury.”

Mercedes brand leaders August were the C-Class models – the current entry-level cars – up 2.8%, the mid-range E-Class cars up 4.5% and the M-Class SUVs up 70.1%.

Meanwhile, BMW breaths in their necks, posting 24,523 vehicles sold in August. The German luxury brand saw sales climb steeply by 45.7%, while Mini was 5.3% up.

“This has been a summer of momentum, giving us a good tail-wind as we enter the all-important autumn selling season,” said Ludwig Willisch, CEO, BMW of North America. “The sales records set before the financial crisis continue to fall.”

He says he hopes the brand will add momentum with the arrival of the redesigned X5 crossover and the new 4 Series Coupe. As usual, its core 3 Series sedan, up 66.9%, powered BMW’s growth. The 5 Series’ growth was even more spectacular, up 158.2%.

Third is Audi, trailing the other two by quite a distance – it sold 14,005 vehicles, a 21.5% increase over 2012. August was Audi’s 32nd consecutive month of record sales.

“Audi needed just eight months to top 100,000 U.S. sales, a level that required a full year as recently as 2010,” said Mark Del Rosso, COO of Audi of America. Previously, Audi had never approached that sales milestone in its 40-year history, proof positive of the sales momentum our brand has rapidly built in this competitive luxury market.”

In the far distance we also had Porsche, with 3,327 vehicles sold in August and Jaguar, which posted a sales rise of 67%.