BMW's 3 Series and its siblings outsell Toyota's Lexus brand, which has been No. 1 since 2000. Lexus are sales down 37.2 percent. (BMW)
The sporty BMW brand has overtaken Toyota Motor Corp.'s Lexus to become the best-selling premium marque in the United States so far this year.
Lexus has held that honor since 2000, according to Autodata Corp. But it's struggling now, with sales down 37.2 percent.
The last time the BMW brand was No. 1 in the United States for a full year was in 1997, when it also beat its archrival, Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz.
BMW's sales are down, too, this year, but not as much as those of Lexus. Its sales have fallen 30.5 percent to 76,819, slightly ahead of Lexus's 73,186 through the month of May.
"We have been seeing, all year, customers remain cautious, and when they shop for premium products, they are buying brands that have a history of value, dependability and enduring quality," said Jim O'Donnell, president of BMW of North America LLC. "This has helped sales in our core 3 Series, 5 Series and X5 range."
But automakers still have many laps to go before the year is out.
Lexus has recently launched the RX 350 SUV and will roll out a hybrid version next week. It will introduce its first designated Lexus gas-electric hybrid, the HS 250h, toward the end of the summer.
The biggest laggards so far this year? The super-pricey supercars -- sales of VW-owned Bentley and Daimler's Maybach are down more than 60 percent this year.
Daimler sold a mere three Maybachs in May.