BMW Ups the Ante in Bid to Outsell Mercedes in U.S.

Attempting to tighten the sales lead held by Mercedes-Benz in the U.S. market, BMW AG has introduced a new incentive program that allows lease owners to skip as many as three monthly payments if they purchase a new or certified-used BMW vehicle.

Eligible models include the 1 Series and 3 Series sedans, 5 Series, 6 Series and 7 Series, as well as the X3, X5 and X6 SUVs.  The 3 Series coupe and convertible, and the M do not qualify for the program.

The program is available to current lease owners of most of the models in BMW’s 2010 lineup and is being offered through BMW Financial Services.

Last month Mercedes posted a seven percent increase in sales. During the first three quarters of this year, the automaker sold 5,221 units in the U.S.

In 2011, BMW ousted Lexus nameplate as the top selling luxury vehicle in the U.S. Lexus had held the title for 11 years, but was severely hamstrung by the March 11 Japan earthquake and tsunami.

According to BWM Financial Services spokesman Mike Geylin, BMW has offered two other lease pull-ahead programs this year.

In addition to lease pull-ahead offers, the automaker also offered a Specialty Demo Allowance deals on selected models last summer.  The program, which offered payments ranging from $2,500 to $7,000, helped to trim Mercedes’ sales lead to 104 units.

In 2011, BMW outsold Mercedes in the U.S market by 2,715 deliveries, excluding non-luxury brands, including BMW’s Mini division.

Over the course of this year, BMW has reduced incentives by 4.8 percent but is still spending 37 percent more than the industry average on discounts and promotions according to Autodata Corporation. BMW hopes the introduction of the new X1 model and a new all-wheel-drive variant of its 3 Series will help it outsell Mercedes for the year.

During the first three quarters, Mercedes increased incentives by 11 percent to outspend the industry average by 44 percent.

As is commonly the practice among non-luxury brands, premium automakers have traditionally boosted incentive spending later in the calendar year. Last November, Mercedes offered to forgive the last eight months’ lease payments to entice lease owners to purchase new vehicles.

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