Why luxury auto sales stagnated in August

The X3 was the top-selling BMW model in the U.S. for the fifth consecutive month.

While August temperatures were sweltering, luxury vehicle sales were tepid. Two of the three category leaders reported a dip in U.S. sales.

Total U.S. luxury sales fell 3.6 percent in August. For the year, deliveries of luxury brands edged up 0.3 percent to 1.3 million vehicles.

Lexus took top honors for the month, but sales still fell 7.1 percent to 28,622 vehicles. The Toyota brand ranks a distant third for the year to date.

Meanwhile, BMW edged longtime rival Mercedes-Benz, selling 23,789 vehicles for the month, up an anemic 1 percent from a year ago. Crossovers fueled BMW’s performance in August.

Mercedes, meanwhile, suffered a 20 percent slide in August sales to 20,339, excluding the brand’s commercial van sales.

“While customer demand remains high, our inventory levels are impacted by delayed availability of many of our 2019 models,” Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Dietmar Exler said in a statement. “We are currently replenishing the inventory of our popular 2019 CLA-, GLC-, E- and GLS-class this month.”

Rounding out the luxury segment’s top five brands in August U.S. sales were Audi, with sales of 20,907, up 5.5 percent. Surging demand for light trucks drove Acura sales up 15 percent in August to 15,072.

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While Mercedes finished No. 1 year-to-date, the lead is shrinking. Two-thirds of the way through 2018, with sales of 199,215 vehicles, Mercedes has a 58-vehicle lead over BMW. Mercedes, however, led by nearly 20,000 at this point in 2017. Mercedes volume leaders in August included the GLC-, C- and GLE-class model lines. The GLC took the lead at 4,926, followed by C-class sales of 4,071. The GLE rounded out the top three with 3,622 units sold.

August sales of Mercedes-AMG high-performance vehicles totaled 2,032, with 19,360 vehicles sold year to date.

Crossovers accounted for 53.6 percent of BMW brand sales in August. The X3 was the top-selling BMW model in the U.S. for the fifth consecutive month.

“With more than 100,000 X models sold in the first eight months of the year we expect the BMW Sports Activity Vehicles to continue leading the way, especially once the all-new, fourth-generation X5 goes on sale later this fall,” BMW of North America CEO Bernhard Kuhnt said in a statement.

Electrified vehicles are a growth market for BMW Group, accounting for 6.7 percent of U.S. sales last month. BMW offers seven electrified models in the U.S., including the BMW i3, BMW i8, BMW 330e, BMW 530e, BMW 740e, BMW X5 xDrive 40e and Mini Countryman plug-in-hybrid.

Sales of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles totaled 1,836 in August, up 6.2 percent from the same time a year ago. Year-to-date sales of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles were up 35 percent, compared with the first eight months of 2017.

Porsche Cars North America Inc. reported August U.S. sales of 4,083 vehicles, a 13 percent decline from August 2017. Retail sales for the first eight months rose 3.7 percent to 37,524 vehicles.

Porsche blamed the year-over-year decline on “the nearly complete sell-out” of Cayenne models ahead of the next-generation model in October. Cayenne crossover sales tumbled nearly 84 percent last month from the same period a year ago.

The Macan led August growth with an increase of 28 percent to 2,107 units.

Genesis had the sharpest decline among luxury brands in August. The Hyundai unit sold just 613 vehicles last month, down 66 percent from a year ago. Alfa Romeo had the biggest year-over-year increase (96 percent), selling 2,240 vehicles in August.

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