Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- Mercedes-Benz posted record July U.S. sales, pulling further ahead of BMW AG’s namesake brand and Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus in the luxury-auto sales race.

Deliveries for Daimler AG’s Mercedes climbed 3.6 percent to 28,523, boosted by a 47 percent gain for its GLC and GLK sport utility vehicles. Sales fell 6.5 percent from a year earlier to 27,890 for Lexus and 4.4 percent to 25,777 for BMW.

Mercedes is more than 11,000 sales ahead of its two main rivals this year through July as demand for its SUVs has helped the brand pull away. BMW, which has held the annual crown the past two years, has been hamstrung by its greater reliance on cars, while Lexus has made gains in SUVs but has seen its car sales tumble.

“The players without very competitive SUVs in those segments are struggling,” said Mark Wakefield, managing director and head of the automotive practice at consultant AlixPartners. “Having the right portfolio of SUVs is very important.”

A fresh product line, especially in compact and mid-size sport utility vehicles, has been critical for luxury brands to succeed, he said.

In July, Mercedes’s volume leaders were the C-Class for cars, with a 1.3 percent decline from a year earlier to 6,304, and the GLE for sport utility vehicles, with a 15 percent increase to 4,412.

BMW reported increases of 51 percent to 3,303 for its 5 Series and 31 percent to 1,203 for the 7 Series, helping boost car sales 10 percent. But deliveries of its SUVs fell 4.4 percent, including a 54 percent slide to 2,744 for the X5.

The sales figures don’t include BMW’s Mini models or Daimler’s work trucks and Smart cars, which aren’t luxury vehicles.

BMW AG on Tuesday also pledged to remain the world’s leading luxury-auto maker after being usurped by Mercedes in the first half, highlighting the challenge it will face without a blockbuster new model. BMW reported that second-quarter earnings before interest and taxes rose 7.9 percent to 2.73 billion euros ($3.05 billion), beating the 2.67 billion-euro average of analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

In the U.S., the four SUV models of Toyota’s Lexus generated a July record 15,455 sales, up 2 percent from a year earlier, as the RX gained 3.1 percent to 8,522. The brand’s car deliveries tumbled 15 percent to 12,435, with only the ES managing an increase, up 1 percent to 5,497.

For the year’s first seven months, none of the luxury brands posted a gain from a year earlier, with declines of 0.6 percent for Mercedes, 4.9 percent for Lexus and 8.4 percent for BMW. The wider market is headed for full-year deliveries of 17.6 million cars and light trucks, the average estimate of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. That would be up from 2015’s record 17.5 million, but the projection is down from 17.8 million in January.

--With assistance from Keith Naughton To contact the reporter on this story: Polina Noskova in Southfield at pnoskova@bloomberg.net. To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at jbutters@bloomberg.net, John Lear

©2016 Bloomberg L.P.

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