Mercedes pads lead over BMW — by a few hundred

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The new model slows down sales on Mercedes-Benz's knees in September and establishes a razor-sharp race for the luxury crown, as 2018 enters its last quarter.

Mercedes sold nearly 10 percent fewer vehicles than in September 2017, although the BMW still beat for the month and its year-on-date extension led to 319 vehicles. At the end of August, the two brands were separated by only 58 vehicles.

Total US luxury sales fell 5 percent in September, excluding Audi, the only brand that did not report results in the US on Tuesday afternoon. Nine months in the year, deliveries by luxury brands fell by 0.7 percent to 1,302,256 vehicles.

Sales in BMW rose 1.3 percent higher in September to 25,908 vehicles, while Lexus sales fell 6.1 percent to 24,597.

While some premium brands did not perform as badly in the third quarter as their counterparts on the mass market, cars have an unprecedented price, said Akshay Anand, executive analyst for Kelley Blue Book.

"This is a trend that shows no signs of slowdown despite the huge gap between SUV and car sales since late," Anand told Automotive News. "For the future, the recipe for luxury can be so simple – if you have strong, new SUV products, everything will be fine, if you do not, look out."

That can be reflected in Acura's sales in September, which increased by 4.4 percent to 13,511 vehicles, supported by a 14 percent increase in sales of light trucks.

"It helps that the sector buys SUVs," Anand said. But the reality is that Acura is facing "difficult times with their sedans and in a bit of a limbo phase as a whole." The brand is not really luxurious and seems to want to evolve to pleasure and performance, but has not done much beyond the expensive NSX, which lacks some of the traditional luxury shoppers. "

Mercedes-Benz sold 26,169 vehicles in September, excluding the vans and smart vehicles of the brand. Year-to-date the automaker sold 225,384 vehicles, with the exception of vans and Smart.

"Customer demand remains consistently strong, but our stock levels are still affected by delays in the availability of many of our most popular 2019 models," said Dietmar Exler, CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA. "We expect increased availability in October and for the rest of the year."

Volume guides in September include the GLC, C-class and E-class lines. The GLC took the lead at 6,070 vehicles, followed by C-class sales of 4,682. The E-class rounded off the top three, with 4,072 vehicles sold. Sales of Mercedes-AMG high-performance vehicles in September amounted to 1,378, resulting in 20,738 vehicles sold to date.

At BMW, crossovers accounted for more than half of sales in September. The X3 was the best-selling BMW model in the US for the sixth consecutive month.

Year-to-date BMW 225,065 vehicles sold 2.2 percent more than in the same period a year ago.

Electrified vehicles are a growth market for BMW Group, accounting for 6.7 percent of US sales last month. Sales of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles amounted to 1,858 in September, an increase of 4.3 percent from a year ago.

Porsche Cars North America reported US sales of 5,102 vehicles in September, up 0.9% from the same time last year. Retail sales rose by 3.4 percent in the first nine months to 42,626.

The Porsche sales in September were fueled by the demand for two model lines. The arrival of the new generation of Cayenne in American showrooms has increased the sales of the brand by 27 percent on an annual basis. Sales of 911 accelerated 38 percent.

The Macan was the bestseller of the brand in September, on 2,232 vehicles, or almost 44 percent of all Porsches that were sold that month.

"The Macan really is the core of bringing in new customers," said Robert DiStanislao, president of Porsche of the main line in the suburbs of Philadelphia. "People from 19 to 90 want the Macan."