Mercedes-Benz beats BMW in 2012 U.S. car registrations, says Polk

Article by Anita Panait, on February 21, 2013

BMW was the best-selling luxury car maker in the United States in 2012, after posting sales of 281,460, boosted by a December surge. Mercedes-Benz was second, after logging sales of 274,134 in 2012. But figures released by R.L. Polk & Co., based on state by state records, show that Mercedes was ahead of BMW in the US in 2012, in terms of new vehicle registrations.

According to the researcher, US buyers registered 272,674 new Mercedes vehicles in 2012, compared with BMW's 267,649. There seems to be a discrepancy in the figures, since if BMW sold more new vehicles, then buyers would have registered more units from the German carmaker.

Tom Libby, lead North American analyst for Polk, explained the discrepancy between registrations and sales, saying that cars can be reported as sold when delivered to dealerships instead of only to consumers. He added that annual registration data lag behind sales data by around 40 days. He remarked that there are things like demo usage and service loaner usage, which BMW did to a greater extent than Mercedes. He noted that the two German luxury brands are very competitive.

Kenn Sparks, a BMW spokesman, quipped that the company is still No. 1, noting that their sales numbers are solid. Sparks noted to Bloomberg that state-provided registration data, as reported by Polk, can lag 60 or even 90 days after an especially strong sales month.

He added that the delay is inevitable particularly if there is a holiday. Steve Cannon, chief executive officer of Mercedes' US sales unit, suggested in a Bloomberg Television interview in January that BMW fabricated its sales results, thus giving its rival the 2012 luxury crown in the US. BMW and Mercedes were head-to-head in the race to become the best-selling luxury carmaker in the US in 2012.

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