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Mercedes-Benz to topple BMW as luxury sales leader

Elisabeth Behrmann
Bloomberg News

Mercedes-Benz has built an all-but insurmountable lead over rival BMW in the race for the title of the world’s biggest luxury-car brand, and that sales momentum looks set to continue through at least 2018.

Surging demand for sport utility vehicles including the GLC helped Mercedes deliveries jump 12 percent in the 11 months through November, more than double the pace of growth for BMW AG’s namesake brand. That left Mercedes more than 69,100 cars ahead of BMW for the period.

Relegating once-dominant BMW to the No. 2 rank for the first time in more than a decade, Mercedes is likely to sustain its strong delivery pace in 2017 thanks to a new version of the E-Class sedan rolled out last March. BMW will be held back by the changeover to a revamped 5-Series, which competes with the E-Class, while a new X3 SUV will come out too late next year to make much of an impact,said Commerzbank AG analyst Sascha Gommel.

Mercedes, owned by Stuttgart, Germany-based Daimler AG, lost its worldwide lead in luxury-car sales to BMW in 2005, and later fell behind Volkswagen AG’s Audi. Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche is delivering early on a five-year-old pledge to retake the top spot by the end of the decade.

Growth at Mercedes will continue into 2018 as the brand’s GLC SUV “is flying out the doors,” according to analyst Ian Fletcher at IHS Automotive research company.

Audi’s 11-month deliveries rose 4.2 percent, and the marque lagged behind Mercedes by more than 179,700 vehicles, according to figures released Monday. IHS is predicting Mercedes’ lead over BMW next year at more than 110,000 cars, and almost 68,000 vehicles in 2018.