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BMW vs. Mercedes-Benz 2011 sales race

Will it be BMW or Mercedes who takes top place in US luxury sales for 2011?

When it comes to luxury cars, Americans like Mercedes-Benz and BMW a lot. The two German brands have had a lock on first and second place for most sales in their class for several years. At the end of November, according to automotive information online resource, BMW was ahead by 1,582 vehicles. That’s not a huge margin, so BMW was willing to sweeten the pot to entice more buyers in December by increasing its incentive spending.

In November, BMW’s average incentive per vehicle had been $3,483. In December, they hiked that up by 6.1% to $3,694. That works out to a vehicle price 11.2% less than the MSRP. Mercedes was only offering $3,132 in November, and increased their incentive by 1.3% to $3,174 or 9.5% below the MSRP. On the surface, that might seem overly confident, but has predicted Mercedes will have better sales than BMW in December and end up on top of the heap for 2011 by about 1,100 vehicles.

“The 2011 luxury sales race might as well be a battle of the deal-seekers versus the trend-setters,” says analyst Ivan Drury. “In one corner, you have great deals available on BMW’s remaining 2011 3 Series vehicles, and in the other corner is a fresher product with the 2012 C-Class. But since luxury car buyers notoriously crave the newest models, Mercedes-Benz could have the advantage.”

While the final numbers aren’t in yet, a sales mix analysis by indicates that 23.6% of BMW’s December sales were 2011 model year vehicles. Only 5.6% of Mercedes-Benz’s December sales were 2011 vehicles. theorizes that’s because the entry level 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan is already available, while BMW’s 2012 3 Series sedan isn’t.

In what’s probably good news for the economy but not such good news for car buyers, several of the large auto manufacturers lowered the offered incentives in December 2011 as compared to 2010. That’s not surprising, given the increased vehicle sales in 2011 compared to the previous year. says the industry average incentive for December 2011 was 8.8% lower than in 2010. Here are their numbers for the “Big Six.”

Chrysler’s November 2011 incentive was $2,519, raised to $2,579 in December. That was down 26.8% from December 2010.

Ford’s November 2011 incentive was $3,028, December’s was $3,100, down 6.2% from December 2010.

Unlike everyone else on the list, GM actually lowered incentives in December, to an average $3,346 from $3,388 in November. That was still up 2.8% from December 2010.

Honda raised incentives 7.2% from $1,181 in November to $1,266 in December, but their 2011 December incentives were down 18.9% from 2010.

Nissan’s incentive of $2,327 in November 2011 was increased slightly to $2,330 for December, 2011. That was still 4.5% more than December 2010.

Finally, we have Toyota, whose average incentive in November 2011 was $1,563, increased to $1,597 for December 2011, down 22.3% from the previous December.

Let’s hope it’s not just the auto industry that things are getting better for.