Luxury sales race goes down to the wire

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Can BMW repeat the mojo it used to notch a come-from-behind win over Mercedes-Benz in 2012? The two brands were nearly neck-and-neck going into the fourth quarter, with Mercedes eyeing a third consecutive year atop the U.S. luxury market.

Luxury race

Mercedes-Benz has a narrow lead over BMW in its quest for a 3rd consecutive U.S. luxury crown.

9-month leader
Full-year winner

2012 Mercedes by 5,241
BMW by 7,376

2013 Mercedes by 2,505
Mercedes by 3,248

2014 BMW by 3,380
BMW by 9,347

2015 BMW by 66
BMW by 1,422

2016 Mercedes by 13,011
Mercedes by 9,009

2017 Mercedes by 22,075
Mercedes by 31,561

2018 Mercedes by 319
?

Source: Automotive News Data Center

Nine months into 2018, Mercedes had outsold its rival by just 319 vehicles, excluding commercial van sales. In each of the past five years, the brand leading three quarters of the way through the year ultimately finished first. But six years ago, BMW pulled out a victory after trailing by more than 5,200 vehicles going into October.

With a redesigned 3 series and a strong lineup of crossovers in a market hungry for them, “BMW really has a legitimate shot at jumping Mercedes,” Edmunds analyst Jeremy Acevedo told Automotive News. “They’re definitely poised to close strong.”

Mercedes has been hampered in recent months by delays in availability of some 2019 models but said it expected improved inventory in the fourth quarter.

Three years ago, the luxury race was even tighter, with BMW holding a 66-vehicle advantage on Oct. 1, 2015. It held on for a 1,422-unit victory — not over Mercedes but over Lexus, which made a late charge during its annual “December to Remember” sale.

But as 2012 showed, the race can remain up for grabs right down to the wire. That year, Mercedes entered December more than 1,800 vehicles ahead of BMW, but BMW rode a 39 percent December surge into the victory circle.

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