Mercedes Is Again Beating BMW But That Doesn't Mean Much

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Mercedes has been locked in a battle with BMW for the luxury US sales crown for years, a competition that increasingly seems dated. It also seems hard to say in 2020 that any automaker is “winning” exactly.

That’s because at the beginning of this year, things were looking good for BMW. It had just beat Mercedes on annual sales for the first time since 2015, propelled by strong SUV sales, particularly that of the X3, X5, and X7. It also had no reason to think it couldn’t do that again this year. Then a global pandemic took over our lives, factories shut down, and a lot of people stopped buying cars.

Which means that while it’s fair to say that Mercedes is safely back on top through the first half of this year, the numbers feel pretty hollow. If anything, it has been a battle to see who can lose less. From Automotive News:

Mercedes delivered 59,461 vehicles, excluding commercial vans, in the second quarter, down 22 percent from a year ago. The GLE crossover led totals with 9,500 sales, followed by the flagship GLC SUV with sales of 9,461.


BMW sold 50,957 vehicles in the U.S. in the second quarter, down 39 percent from the same period a year ago. BMW’s quarterly sales were buoyed by additions to the 2 Series and 8 Series sedan lineups.

In the luxury market, Lexus’ U.S. sales fell 27 percent in the second quarter to 50,456. Tesla deliveries tumbled an estimated 34 percent to 36,800; Audi rounded out the top five with 34,843 sales, down 35 percent from a year earlier.


The rest of 2020 will likely be much of the same as we’ve seen in the past three months: A slow recovery, with car sales following. And of course at the end of this year someone will have come out on top (Mercedes probably), but, like with almost everything these days, it will probably feel more like an accomplishment merely to have survived.