BMW Group (NASDAQOTH:BAMXF) said on Tuesday that its U.S. sales rose 8% in March, as a jump in sales for BMW-brand vehicles more than made up for a substantial drop in Mini sales.
BMW-brand sales rose 18.6% on the month, another sign that the U.S. luxury-vehicle market continues to be healthy. It was also enough to narrow archrival Mercedes-Benz's 2014 U.S sales lead to just a few hundred vehicles.
Balanced growth across BMW's luxury lineup
BMW said in a statement on Tuesday that last month was the BMW brand's best March ever. And unlike some other automakers -- notably Ford (NYSE:F) and Toyota (NYSE:TM) -- that have seen SUV sales increase at the apparent expense of car sales, BMW posted gains up and down its model line.
BMW's SUVs and crossovers (up 21.6%) did outperform BMW's cars (up 17.5%). But BMW's cars did well, with the company reporting especially big gains for the big 6 Series coupes and -- perhaps in a harbinger of spring -- its Z4 sports cars. But BMW's bread and butter, the 3 Series and 4 Series lines of compact sedans and coupes, was up a combined 14.2% over a strong year-ago result.
Year to date, U.S. sales for the BMW brand are up 11.5% -- a strong result, especially given the 5% gain posted by Mercedes-Benz and the 3% gain for Audi.
Mercedes and Audi aren't doing badly, but they lost ground in March
Mercedes took the U.S. luxury-car-sales crown away from BMW last year, and holding on to it in 2014 is a priority for corporate parent Daimler (NASDAQOTH:DDAIF). Mercedes isn't doing badly: The brand saw U.S. sales rise 11.2% in March, ahead of the 6% gain posted by the overall U.S. market.
The story at Mercedes was similar to that at BMW: Solid sales of both cars and SUVs. Sales of the compact and midsize C- and E-Class sedans were strong, while the M-Class -- Mercedes' best-selling SUV line -- posted a 15.7% gain in March.
Meanwhile, Audi has emerged as a global powerhouse and a major source of profits for parent Volkswagen Group (NASDAQOTH:VLKAY). But here in the U.S., it trails both of its German rivals -- as well as Lexus and Cadillac -- in total sales.
It's not keeping up with either of its big global rivals here so far this year. Audi's U.S. sales were up 7.5% in March, outperforming the overall market but trailing the gains seen at both BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Like both its rivals, Audi saw strength in cars, with its A6 sedan up 26.7%, and in SUVs, with the plush (and expensive) Q7 posting a 45.8% gain.
The upshot: Luxury is strong, and BMW is taking full advantage
The U.S. market for luxury vehicles (at least, German-brand luxury vehicles) continues to be strong, as all three of the German makes outperformed the overall U.S. market in March. And BMW appears well-positioned to take full advantage at the moment.
But I suspect that Mercedes' boss, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche, won't relinquish the U.S. sales crown without a fight. How will Mercedes step it up in April? We'll find out.
John Rosevear owns shares of Ford. The Motley Fool recommends BMW and Ford. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.