Mercedes-Benz: Still Leading Luxury, by Volume

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
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mercedes benz still leading luxury by volume

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.

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]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

Consumer advocate tracking industry trends, regulation, and the bitter-sweet nature of modern automotive tech. Research focused and gut driven.

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  • Tylanner Tylanner on Jan 06, 2019

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

  • Pete Zaitcev Pete Zaitcev on Jan 06, 2019

    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.

  • Carsofchaos The bike lanes aren't even close to carrying "more than the car lanes replaced". You clearly don't drive in Midtown Manhattan on a daily like I do.
  • Carsofchaos The problem with congestion, dear friends, is not the cars per se. I drive into the city daily and the problem is this:Your average street in the area used to be 4 lanes. Now it is a bus lane, a bike lane (now you're down to two lanes), then you have delivery trucks double parking, along with the Uber and Lyft drivers also double parking. So your 4 lane avenue is now a 1.5 lane avenue. Do you now see the problem? Congestion pricing will fix none of these things....what it WILL do is fund persion plans.
  • FreedMike Many F150s I encounter are autonomously driven...and by that I mean they're driving themselves because the dips**ts at the wheel are paying attention to everything else but the road.
  • Tassos A "small car", TIM????????????This is the GLE. Have you even ever SEEN the huge thing at a dealer's??? NOT even the GLC,and Merc has TWO classes even SMALLER than the C (The A and the B, you guessed it? You must be a GENIUS!).THe E is a "MIDSIZED" crossover, NOT A SMALL ONE BY ANY STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION, oh CLUELESS one.I AM SICK AND TIRED OF THE NONSENSE you post here every god damned day.And I BET you will never even CORRECT your NONSENSE, much less APOLOGIZE for your cluelessness and unprofessionalism.
  • Stuki Moi "How do you take a small crossover and make it better?Slap the AMG badge on it and give it the AMG treatment."No, you don't.In fact, that is specifically what you do NOT do.Huge, frail wheels, and postage stamp sidewalls, do nothing but make overly tall cuvs tramline and judder. And render them even less useful across the few surfaces where they could conceivably have an advantage over more properly dimensioned cars. And: Small cuvs have pitiful enough fuel range as it is, even with more sensible engines.Instead, to make a small CUV better, you 1)make it a lower slung wagon. And only then give it the AMG treatment. AMG'ing, makes sense for the E class. And these days with larger cars, even the C class. For the S class, it never made sense, aside from the sheer aural visceralness of the last NA V8. The E-class is the center of AMG. Even the C-class, rarely touches the M3.Or 2) You give it the Raptor/Baja treatment. Massive, hypersophisticated suspension travel allowing landing meaningful jumps. As well as driving up and down wide enough stairs if desired. That's a kind of driving for which a taller stance, and IFS/IRS, makes sense.Attempting to turn a CUV into some sort of a laptime wonder, makes about as much sense as putting an America's Cup rig atop a ten deck cruiseship.