By on January 4, 2019

Mercedes-Benz managed to hold onto its heavyweight title in luxury sales for the third year running, at least as far as the United States is concerned. Though the domestic match was close — BMW’s 311,014 deliveries in 2018 were only a few thousand units shy of Mercedes’ 315,959. In fact, BMW volume improved 1.7 percent against 2017 while MB sales were down 6.3 percent, with most of the ground being lost in the second half of the year.

During that same time frame, Tesla sales exploded. By year’s end, the luxury EV manufacturer had 182,400 domestic deliveries under its belt — nearly four times the volume witnessed in 2017. 

While Tesla could contend for top honors in a few years, the next luxury sales season will be a race between Mercedes-Benz and BMW according to Automotive News.

“Luxury will remain as hot as ever in 2019, with a slew of new product and new segment entries,” Akshay Anand, executive analyst at Kelley Blue Book, told the outlet. “The sales crown may mean a lot to automakers, but to consumers, what matters is finding the best bang for their buck in a time when most vehicles out there are rock-solid.”

Mercedes has grown quite skilled at broadening its lineup and “helping” cash-strapped customers get into workable lease options. But so has BMW, and that, no doubt, helped it close on its German rival this year. With 34,357 models shipped in December, BMW even managed to best Mercedes’ passenger vehicle sales in the final weeks of 2018.

Mercedes’ biggest hits included the GLC, C-Class and E-Class model lines. The GLC garnered 7,294 sales in December and 69,729 for the whole of 2018, making it the best year on record for the SUV. The C and E-Classes came in with 60,410 and 45,437 annual deliveries, respectively.

2018 BMW X3 M40i - Image: BMW

By comparison, most of BMW’s volume can be attributed to crossover sales — thanks to strong demand for the X3 and X5. While BMW hasn’t announced official numbers yet, the X3 had already surpassed last year’s volume of 41,000 units by October. The X5 performed less impressively but still looks on course to match 2017’s 34,641 deliveries. According to the manufacturer, the X3 and X5, combined, represented more than two out of every 5 BMW vehicles sold inside the U.S. for December. Unfortunately for the brand, that wasn’t quite enough to beat Mercedes.

“Despite the delayed availability of some of our most popular models in 2018, we achieved a solid closing of the year thanks to the excellent work of our dealers,” Dietmar Exler, CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, said in a statement. “With the youngest and most comprehensive lineup in the luxury segment, we will continue to advance our position in the marketplace.”

[Images: Mercedes-Benz; BMW]

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41 Comments on “Mercedes-Benz: Still Leading Luxury, by Volume...”


  • avatar
    slavuta

    Domestic match was close? 5,000 units is not even close

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “While Tesla could contend for top honors in a few years…”

    That will happen in 2019, not a few years.

    And in keeping with TTAC’s interest in TSLA, its price was up about 6% today.

    • 0 avatar
      Serpens

      That will absolutely not happen in 2019. You’re really expecting Tesla to add north of 120,000 MORE deliveries in the U.S. in 2019 as the economy softens? Tesla will do well, but not that well.

      • 0 avatar
        SunnyvaleCA

        I don’t think there is enough demand to ship 180,000 Teslas costing upwards of $50k in a single year.

        However, if Tesla somehow ships the mythical “$35k Model 3” AND is able to produce enough of them they could take the crown.

        But is a $35k Tesla Model 3 an actual “luxury” car? For that matter does a vinyl-seat, 175 HP 4-banger Mercedes or BMW count as a “luxury” car just because the brand sells SOME cars that are luxury cars?

        • 0 avatar
          slavuta

          @SunnyvaleCA, Model 3 is not even a car. Its a car pod. It is a computer on wheels. Cars have dash, grill, you know… Model 3 reminds me rubber ducky.

        • 0 avatar
          James2

          “But is a $35k Tesla Model 3 an actual “luxury” car? For that matter does a vinyl-seat, 175 HP 4-banger Mercedes or BMW count as a “luxury” car just because the brand sells SOME cars that are luxury cars?”

          I think this is a good point. To me, (true) luxury = rarity. When you see ‘yourself’ coming and going, then the car becomes too common to be rare, thus it is not a luxury car. I tell my mom this all the time as I see too many of her Lexus ESs on the ground.

          And she agrees with me, and ignores it all the same.

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          I didn’t declare Tesla to be a luxury brand – the author did.

          I’ve never owned a luxury car, and we could debate all day about how to define the term.

          Having driven both the Model 3 and S, I am actually happier with my Hyundai.

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          @SunnyvaleCA,

          Tesla already shipped 193k cars this year.

          The Model 3 shipped 25k copies in December alone. If Tesla maintains their production volume in their high demand market, they will certainly overtake Daimler and BMW in the US.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      Are you Musk’s secret lover?

    • 0 avatar
      vehic1

      Tesla has indeed enjoyed good sales numbers this year. Whether or not the large % growth continues without any interruption – may depend on the continued increase in new buyers (not pent-up demand) and increased EV competition at those higher-end price points. (And Tesla would be defined as a luxury-price automaker, unless it begins producing models competing with Corollas, Civics, etc.).

  • avatar
    Mr.EpMini9

    Tesla will outsell them all in a few years.

  • avatar
    dusterdude

    Makes sense.. Neither brand is best for reliability, but MB is more reliable than BMW ..

  • avatar
    thejohnnycanuck

    I’d like to know how much livery duty sales come into play regarding Mercedes’ numbers. I used to deal with a number of executive limo operators and in many cases the S-Class was their big dog.

    And I agree with all the others who dispute the Model 3’s status as a luxury car. It may be priced like one but that’s where the resemblance ends.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    My money for 2019 is on BMW because their new product momentum. Consider that the new X5 has received rave reviews and has only been out a few months, the top selling X3 is only 1 year into its most recent generation, while the X4 is new in 2019, and the new 3 series is only months away and has received rave introductory reviews. Meanwhile the X2 is less than a year old, and it and the X1 will be receiving power upgrades, and the new jumbo X7 is also on its way. The recent M5 is considered the best super sedan on the market, and BMW has other new niche models such as the 8 series and new Z4 arriving as we speak. The i3 and i8 have recent battery and power upgrades, and electrified versions of several “regular” models are also coming soon.

    Audi momentum is likely to be thwarted by the diesel scandal that has to bite into new model budgets, MB is strong but its key models are a bit longer in the tooth than comparable BMWs, and Lexus is a 2 trick pony relying on hybrid versions of generally old RX and NX platforms. Meanwhile Cadillac is cutting models and Lincoln seems to be putting most of their effort into going back to actual product names instead of the alphabet soup. And Tesla is totally reliant on the ancient S and long in tooth X that still have dismal build quality, and the newish 3 that also has awful build quality and is in a rapidly declining segment, their only plant is running flat out, and they will lose their EV tax credit subsidy in 2019. New models and factories have been announced, but does anyone actually trust such announcements from Tesla?

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Actually, Tesla is totally reliant on the Model 3,which has been the stated plan all along. It outsold the S and X by 3:1 combined.

      Tesla has presented running versions of its semi and Roadster 2.0, and has broken ground on its factory in China. Specifically which products or factories has Tesla reneged on?

      • 0 avatar
        stingray65

        Tesla has only been about 1 to 3 years behind on every new product introduction, and 6 months to a year behind in hitting product announced manufacturing goals, and I just saw a report that the China factory is still just a big open field.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          “I just saw a report that the China factory is still just a big open field.”

          Not exactly. The footage from mid-December that I saw shows a massive perimeter fence and what looks like drainage work in progress. Lots of pipes and lots of mud on the land. Pretty much what you’d expect at this point. Lots of site prep work. Were you expecting a building to be up at this point? Then again, it is China and I was kind expecting a giant tent to go up myself, but they seem to be doing it right so far.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    There’s something sad about BMW’s success coming from crossovers. Don’t get me wrong- they’re good, and BMW has to make money- but this is BMW we’re talking about.

    • 0 avatar
      TOTitan

      It is no wonder X5’s sell well. My X5 diesel is the perfect car for us in Colorado. The X drive system is amazing on ice and snow, and it will climb I70 at speed easily leaving gas rigs behind as they gasp for air and drink gas in single digit numbers. Ours has the M57 twin turbo version which was only available for three years 2011-2013.

    • 0 avatar
      Fred

      Right now everyone’s success is because of crossovers and SUVs.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        Fair point. Unlike some others though, it seems their cars have suffered rather than benefited. They seem a bit stretched. G20 3 looks good but if I had to pick between the previous X3 or 3 series I think I’d get the X3 for my wife.

  • avatar
    JoDa

    How is Tesla a “Luxury Brand”? Tesla is just an electric toy for goofs with more dollars than sense.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    What percentage of Mercedes-Benz products sold are actually luxury cars, and what percentage are bargain basement vans or rebadged Nissans?

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Great question, whose answer is endlessly debatable.

      My experience says that luxury is defined by the badge (aspirational), not the actual content. Hence, people argue that low-end Mercedes-Benz products don’t qualify, while the cultural consensus is that M-B is an aspirational/luxury brand.

      • 0 avatar

        There is actual quality at some levels, but that does not mean the Factory won’t whore the brand. My first BMW was the e46 with M Sport. The seats, the engine, the suspension…were head and shoulders beyond..the factory satnav was radical in 2003..and when I drove an F30 in 2016, also M Sport, enough had been diluted to make it acceptable to a guy who would otherwise buy a base Accord but had more money/ego/status desire. Most of what made the first car great (build quality-ahem-six not four-ahem) were gone. Likewise, I have a C43 now. Like the BMW, it is considered “hard riding” and such, but to soften it would mean I had a CLA-but so far, Benz has seen fit to not water down the AMG badge…we shall see. Suspension, electronics, engine are a cut above most….and I’ve had the privilege of driving most of the NYC Classic car club collection…Badges matter only if they back up the promise. BMW has at this point, other than M Cars, lost the thread. I was scared off Tesla by the breaking cast alum suspension members.

        • 0 avatar
          Matt Posky

          MB’s final figures were adjusted to account for commercial van sales. They are not included in the annual sales figures, otherwise the company would have had 354,114 U.S. deliveries in 2018.

  • avatar
    tylanner

    MB is making lust-worthy stuff…anything with that new turbo straight6….yummy.

  • avatar
    Pete Zaitcev

    I looked at low-end GLC 300 4Matic. The Benz had a strong infotainment and a good ride, but the transmission programming was a little weird, interior design a bit too overdone. Interestingly enough, there’s an off-road package. I ended buying an X3, because I liked how it drove. But GLC was quite compelling.

    Mercedes’ poverty spec offerings are underwhelming. I’d rather drive a Crosstrek than GLA. Heck, I would rather drive a Renegade than GLA.

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