US: Mercedes-Benz sales outshine BMW image

Mercedes-Benz, helped by the CLA 4 door coupe, took away the luxury vehicle sales crown from archrival BMW as carmakers closed the books on a successful 2013 that sets the stage for a continuing rebound.

Mercedes sold 312,534 vehicles in the U.S. last year, up 14 % from 2012, compared with BMW’s 309,280, or a 9.9 % gain. The results ended a two-year reign for BMW in the U.S. The figures exclude non-luxury vehicles such as Mini for Munich-based BMW and Sprinter and Smart for Mercedes.

The September introduction of the $29,900 CLA, the first Mercedes with a starting price in the U.S. below $30,000, helped boost deliveries for the Stuttgart, Germany-based company. Mercedes sold 14,113 CLAs for the year.

Mercedes promoted the CLA in advertisements starting with the 2013 Super Bowl featuring actor Willem Dafoe as the devil trying to entice a man into selling his soul for the car. The man declines after seeing the $29,900 starting price.

Despite its own 11th-hour push, BMW sales for December came in a grand total of 10 units short of the 37,399 vehicles it sold during December 2012, and so, while the company smashed its own annual sales record – with a 9.9% increase for the full year, at 309,280 vehicles – it had to settle for second place.

Lexus, which held the luxury sales crown for nearly a decade, was a distant third despite its own 12% increase in sales, while Cadillac came in fourth – though the General Motors division’s 22% sales gain made it 2013’s fastest-growing luxury auto brand.

Some analysts questioned whether December might have yielded even bigger gains for the industry overall were it not for a series of harsh storms that hammered major portions of the country. Even then, total sales for the month were up 3.8% – helping the industry to reach collective sales of around 15.5 million, its best performance in six years.