After two years of luxury sector domination by BMW, the king has officially fallen. Mercedes-Benz is the 2013 U.S. luxury segment ruler thanks to a narrow 3,228 unit lead over BMW. According to data from WARDSAUTO.com , the Mercedes brand (sans Sprinter) managed to sell 312,508 units compared to BMW’s still impressive total of 309,280 units.
To say the race between the two brands was competitive is a bit of an understatement. For most of 2013, the race was more a game of cat and mouse; when one brand pulled ahead, the other was right behind. While Mercedes eventually claimed the crown, BMW put up an amazing fourth quarter fight such that November’s gap of 7,373 units was reduced to 3,228 through the end of December.
Since 2009, the biggest separation between the two brands in terms of annual sales volume was a 7,405 unit gap recorded in 2012. Besides 2012, other years fell within an even closer range of only 2,734 to 6,074 units separating each brand. The chart below demonstrates how close annual sales between the two have been and how much sales have grown since 2009.
As we've mentioned in the past, luxury segment competition is always ultra-competitive, and with sales this close it’s important to always have the newest products in the marketplace. Mercedes’ victory in 2013 can be attributed to just that, with the successful launch of the all-new CLA-Class as well as warm receptions of the redesigned E-Class and S-Class models. Because of these exciting new products, Mercedes was able to achieve additional sales that likely wouldn't have been possible without steeper discounting.
The CLA is a perfect example of how a well-executed product can help propel a brand forward. Since going on sale this past September, the CLA has been one of the hottest new cars on the market. In fact, Mercedes managed to sell 14,113 of them in only four months, which is big for the brand considering they only sold 13,303 S-Class models in all of 2013. The CLA ultimately gave them the extra push to narrowly surpass BMW and take the 2013 luxury sales crown. By comparison, BMW delivered just 7,220 units of its entry-level 1-Series – 6% fewer than in 2012 – and the brand announced plans to stop selling the model in the U.S. for the 2014 model year.
The biggest question on everyone’s mind now is whether Mercedes will be able to continue wearing their luxury segment crown through 2014. With the recent success of the CLA and upcoming launch of the all-new GLA and C-Class, I see no reason why not. This past November I had the opportunity to view the GLA45 AMG concept vehicle at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show, and it looks like Mercedes has all of the right ingredients for another new hit. Like the CLA, the GLA’s release date is scheduled for the fall and the redesigned C-Class should drop around the same time, which will help the brand snag some extra sales toward the end of the year.