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BMW Versus Lexus for 2009 U.S. Luxury Sales Title

BMW might not quite make it this year, but it's making a horse race out of maybe passing perennial best-seller Lexus to be the No. 1-selling U.S. luxury brand in 2009.

Sales have fallen for both brands since a record year in 2007. Lexus, which belongs to Toyota (TM), sold 329,177 cars and trucks in the United States in 2007, versus BMW (Nasdaq GS:BMW) with 293,795. That was a margin of more than 35,000 units for Lexus, according to the Automotive News Data Center.

In 2009, after 11 months, Lexus at 187,410 is ahead of BMW by only 11,036, according to AutoData Corp. That's almost an average month's worth of sales for either brand, so on the face of it, with only one month to go in 2009, it's unlikely BMW will pass Lexus for the full year. Not only that, BMW habitually says it cares more about profits than it does about sales records.

Still, December is far from an average month for most automotive luxury brands, and anything could happen. Thanks to annual December promotions, December has become the peak sales month for most luxury brands in the United States.

Monthly sales for most mass-market automotive brands peak in the late summer or early fall. That was certainly the case this year, thanks to Cash for Clunkers.

But luxury bragging rights for 2009 could come down to which does better -- the Lexus December to Remember sales promotion, or this year's BMW Joy Sales Event.

By another measure, the BMW Group - including the BMW brand, Mini and Rolls-Royce - has been No. 1 in the United States ever since BMW reintroduced the Mini brand in the U.S. market in 2002.

In 2009, the BMW Group at 218,419 units is already outselling Lexus by about 31,000 units through November. That makes the BMW Group what it calls the No. 1 "premium" manufacturer.

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