BMW took the top position in the U.S. luxury car market last year and to make sure that it keeps the title this year, its new entry-level 3-Series sedan is set to be released in U.S. showrooms in the weekend. BMW, the largest premium automaker, faces competition from Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz, General Motors Co.'s Cadillac and Volkswagen AG's Audi.
BMW was able to outperform Mercedes in 2011 largely due to the success of the 3-Series, which was first presented in 1975. BMW also credited the 3-Series for having wrestled the U.S. luxury crown away from Toyota Motor Corp.'s Lexus.
The new 3- Series, which has more power yet greater gas mileage than previous versions, will be competing with several competing entry-level luxury sedans. Ludwig Willisch, the CEO of BMW North America, said that ever since the release of its highly successful 3-Series, the automaker has been “hunted” by rivals. The new 3-Series makes its debut as Mercedes is hoping to do better than BMW.
Last month, Mercedes was the top-selling U.S. luxury brand with sales rising 24% to 20,306 while BMW had a 3.1% increase to 16,405. Lexus, which was no. 1 for 11 years until 2011, is aiming to raise U.S. sales by over 25% this year to 250,000.
Mercedes began to sell an updated C-Class sedan in September that ended the year with an 11% increase, surpassing the 3- Series sedan with just 500 units higher. Audi intends to release an updated A4 sometime middle of the year. Furthermore, GM's Cadillac will release the ATS in the first quarter. This would be Cadillac’s first compact luxury car in about 25 years.