With a starting price less than $30,000, Mercedes is depending...

With a starting price less than $30,000, Mercedes is depending upon the 2014 CLA coupe to lure entry-level buyers and boost sales. Credit: Mercedes-Benz USA

Mercedes-Benz withstood a December surge from Bayerische Motoren Werke AG’s BMW, ending its rival’s two-year reign as the top-selling U.S. luxury vehicle brand, as the breadth of Mercedes’s lineup pushed it to an annual record.

Daimler AG’s Mercedes posted a 17 percent gain last month with 33,007 deliveries, led by the new entry-level CLA, and revamped mid-size E-Class and premium S-Class cars. For the year, the brand’s sales rose 14 percent to 312,534, or 3,254 more than BMW. Daimler Chief Executive Officer Dieter Zetsche said in July he expected his company to come up short in 2013.

“Mercedes had strong performance from across the portfolio in December,” Alec Gutierrez, an auto analyst at Kelley Blue Book in Irvine, Calif., said in a Jan. 2 interview. “They’re in a great position for 2014.”

BMW was unable to close the gap after Mercedes opened a 7,610-vehicle lead through November. BMW reported December sales of 37,389, a drop of just 10 from a year earlier, as deliveries surged 56 percent for its 3 Series and 4 Series sedans. The Munich-based automaker’s annual total rose 10 percent to 309,280, topping its record from 2007.

The figures don’t include Stuttgart, Germany-based Daimler’s cargo vans and Smart cars and BMW’s Mini brand, which aren’t luxury vehicles.

BMW’s status as annual leader for 2012 was based on reported sales. By vehicle registrations, Mercedes topped BMW last year, according to researcher R.L. Polk & Co. Through September, owners had registered 216,724 new BMW vehicles in the U.S., compared with 206,952 from Mercedes, according to Polk.

New Draw

Mercedes said 75 percent of buyers of its new CLA, which starts at $29,900, were new to the brand. Since the car’s debut in late September, sales totaled 14,113.

“Flat out, CLA has been one of the best product launches we’ve done in 20 years,” Steve Cannon, chief executive officer of Mercedes-Benz USA, said in an interview.

Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus, the top-selling luxury-auto brand in the U.S. for 11 years through 2010, posted a 14 percent increase in December, helped by the entry-level IS sedan, which more than doubled sales to 5,414. Deliveries rose to 34,757 for the month and climbed 12 percent to 273,847 for the year, the Toyota City, Japan-based company said in a statement.

General Motors Co.’s Cadillac reported a 0.5 percent sales decrease to 18,165 for the month and a 22 percent increase to 182,543 for the year. Annual deliveries of the ATS sedan rose more than fivefold to 38,319 and the XTS sedan more than doubled to 32,559, Detroit-based GM said in a statement.

Audi, Acura

U.S. sales of Volkswagen AG’s Audi brand rose 15 percent to 17,013 in December, the Wolfsburg, Germany-based company said in a statement. Audi, which has posted record sales for 36 months in a row, reported gains of 53 percent for the Q7 SUV and 43 percent for the A6 sedan. Sales for the year rose 13 percent to 158,061, an all-time high.

Honda’s Acura sales fell 1.8 percent to 15,751 last month, according to a statement from the Tokyo-based company. Acura’s annual total climbed 5.9 percent to 165,436, as a 21 percent rise for SUVs overcame a 10 percent decline for cars.

Nissan Motor Co.’s Infiniti sales gained 4.8 percent to 13,232 in December. Infiniti sold 116,455 vehicles in 2013, down 2.9 percent, according to a statement from the Yokohama, Japan-based automaker.

Monthly sales of Ford Motor Co.’s Lincoln brand advanced 8.1 percent to 7,984, the Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker said in a statement. The redesigned MKZ sedan led the gains, with a 73 percent surge to 2,823. For the year, Lincoln sales fell 0.6 percent to 81,694, the company said.

Porsche, the Stuttgart-based automaker that’s now part of Volkswagen, reported increases of 10 percent to 3,246 for the month and 21 percent to 42,323 for the year.

Land Rover monthly sales climbed 11 percent to 5,764, while Jaguar’s rose 47 percent to 1,544, according to a statement. For the year, Land Rover gained 15 percent to 50,010, its highest ever, while Jaguar soared 41 percent to 16,952. The two brands are owned by Mumbai-based Tata Motors Ltd.

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