2011 BMW X5
For several years, the U.S. luxury market has been dominated by Lexus, but as we mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Toyota's high-end marque recently lost ground with American shoppers. Now BMW sits in the driver's seat, ahead of German rival Mercedes-Benz by a super-slim lead of just 29 sales.
Lexus' management team attribute the company's sales slump to manufacturing and supply problems stemming from the March 11 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan, where most Lexus vehicles are built. While there's definitely some truth to that, the fact of the matter is that Lexus has been slipping for some time, and we're not entirely sure that its new CT 200h will be the silver bullet that the company has hoped for.
That leaves German brands vying for the #1 spot. Mercedes-Benz sold 18,042 cars and SUVs last month -- a 2.3% rise from April 2010 -- which put the company at 71,388 sales for the year to date. But when all the dust had settled, it was BMW by a nose, selling 18,801 vehicles in April and 71,417 for the year. That's a difference of just 29 units.
And the race isn't likely to get any less exciting as the year progresses. As Marty Padgett noted in his sales roundup earlier this week, Mercedes has been helped by strong sales of its E-Class rides, while BMW has leveraged the popularity of the X5 and the new X3.
Other brands like Audi, Cadillac, Infiniti, and Lincoln (which actually slipped compared to 2010) have been left mostly in the dust. With 17,576 sales in April (64,932 for the year), Lexus is the only player that stands a chance of competing with BMW and Mercedes -- but can the underdog burst from the rear of the pack to force an upset? It's unlikely, but we're not laying any bets. Stay tuned.