Mercedes-Benz claims US supply issues barred it from taking sales crown

Article by Anita Panait, on January 8, 2013

Mercedes-Benz is claiming that constraints in its supply of luxury vehicles in the United States have prevented it from securing the crown as the top-selling luxury car maker in the country in 2012.  Steve Cannon, Mercedes-Benz USA’s chief executive, remarked that the carmaker sold 10,000 more Mercedes ML and GL sports utility vehicles in the US, but they “did not get that share of global production.”

BMW posted a 14-percent increase in annual sales in the US in 2012 to 281,460 vehicles, 7,376 more than Mercedes’ 274,084 sold units. Mercedes had steadily held the sales lead in first 11 months of 2012, until BMW surged with a 39-percent gain in December 2012, compared with the former’s 10-percent sales growth in the month.

Likewise, Ludwig Willisch, BMW of North America’s chief executive, remarked that they could have sold more vehicles in the US, but their supply was constrained for the first eight months of 2012. He said that they had a “tough time getting cars” into the US, noting that BMW’s production sites around the world were building vehicles at full speed.

BMW’s sales triumph in the US is largely attributed to the strong sales of its 3 series. BMW sold 99,602 units of the 3 series in 2012, while Mercedes-Benz sold 81,697 C class. BMW managed to achieve the feat despite suffering from a slow ramp-up, as the all-wheel-drive version of the 3 series, which accounts for around 50 percent of its sales, did not arrive until late August 2012.

Willisch quipped that BMW kept incentives under control. Lexus grabbed the No. 3 spot in the US luxury car sales race, posting a 23-percent jump in 2012 to 244,166 vehicles.

Lexus had been the top-selling luxury carmaker in the US for 11 straight years until 2011, when it was toppled by BMW. Willisch expects BMW’s growth in 2013 to be driven by the addition of diesel engines in the 3 series in the first half, and in the 5 series by fall. BMW also will offer the redesigned 3-series coupe in the fall, but will rename it as the 4 series.

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