The race between Mercedes and BMW for U.S. monthly sales is usually close. Not so in January. Mercedes sold 26,563 cars and light trucks, up 1.7% year over year. BWM sales reached 18,082, down 4.7%.
Most of the BMW car family posted sharp drops in January. 3 Series sales dropped 30.6% to 3,247 and 4 Series sales by 29.9% to 1,832. The two models are among BMW’s least expensive and provide an entry point for new buyers. The more upscale 5 Series sales rose 13% to 3,795. BMW also had trouble among its sport utility vehicle (SUV) line. Sales of its best-selling X5 dropped 19.6% to 2,584.
BMW blamed the weather:
“As expected, January suffered a bit from the strong storms that froze large parts of the country,” said Ludwig Willisch, President and CEO, BMW of North America. “In spite of the obstacles, the new BMW X1 showed extraordinary growth and our 7 Series and X3 set the momentum we expect to continue in the year ahead.”
Mercedes left issues of the weather aside:
Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) today reported record January sales of 24,664, topping last January’s record volume of 24,619 units sold. Adding 1,899 units for Vans and 399 units for smart, MBUSA achieved its highest January to date with a grand total of 26,962 vehicles, up 1.3% from a year ago
Sales of the Mercedes entry-level product, the CLA-Class, rose 27% to 3,168. Sales of its other popular cars fell, the C-Class off 18.6% to 5,079 and the E-Class off 42.3% to 2,503. The CLA is the Mercedes entry-level car. Management can claim the manufacturers gained customers at the low end of the income sale.
Mercedes sales were rescued by its SUVs, two of which were not sold last year. Sales of the new GLC-Class were 2,765. Sales of the new GLE-Class were 3,515. Another SUV, the GLA-Class, posted sales of 3,041, higher by 61.9%
The GLA-Series is the Mercedes entry-level SUV, with a base price of $32.500. The GLC-Class is next up the ladder with a base price of $38,950. The GLE-Class has a base price of $51,100. Mercedes has effectively made SUVs that appeal across the board, from luxury economy buyer to consumers who pay higher prices for a Mercedes top-line model.
BMW and Mercedes managements often say that total sales are not a good measure of financial health, pointing rather to profits. Even if that is so, Mercedes has sales bragging rights for the first month of the year.