Edmunds.com's December True Cost of Incentives®: BMW and Mercedes-Benz Make Final Plays for Luxury Sales Crown


Edmunds.com's December True Cost of Incentives®: BMW and Mercedes-Benz Make Final Plays for Luxury Sales Crown

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — January 3, 2012 — BMW's increased incentive spending in December may not be enough to hold off Mercedes-Benz in 2011's battle for luxury car sales supremacy, reports Edmunds.com, the premier online resource for automotive information. BMW led Mercedes-Benz by 1,582 vehicles in the U.S. luxury sales race through November, but according to Edmunds.com's December sales forecast, Mercedes-Benz is expected to pull ahead to finish the year over BMW by about 1,100 vehicles.

An analysis of Edmunds.com's True Cost of Incentives® (TCISM) shows that BMW made a stronger appeal than Mercedes-Benz to luxury car buyers looking for a good deal in December. BMW raised its incentive spending more than $200 to $3,694 per vehicle sold from November to December, while Mercedes' average spend remained virtually flat at $3,174. The average discount percentage on a new BMW in December was 11.2 percent off MSRP, compared to 9.5 percent off MSRP for a new Mercedes.

BMW/Mercedes-Benz Year-End Incentives and Discount Percentage
  True Cost of Incentives® Discount Percentage (off MSRP)
Brand Dec-11 Nov-11 Percent Change Dec-11 Nov-11 Percentage Point Change
BMW $3,694 $3,483 6.1% 11.2% 9.7% 1.5%
Mercedes-Benz $3,174 $3,132 1.3% 9.5% 8.0% 1.5%
Industry Avg. $2,314 $2,272 1.8% 10.7% 10.0% 0.7%

According to an Edmunds.com sales mix analysis, 23.6 percent of BMWs sold in December were 2011 model year vehicles, compared to just 5.6 percent for Mercedes-Benz. The discrepancy is most likely attributable to the availability of the two brands' popular entry-level sedans: Mercedes-Benz has already launched its 2012 C-Class sedan, while the 2012 BMW 3 Series sedan won't be available for at least another two months.

"The 2011 luxury sales race might as well be a battle of the deal-seekers versus the trend-setters," says Edmunds.com 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."

Big Six TCISM
Among the Big 6 automakers, Honda showed the most month-to-month movement in incentive spending. The Japanese automaker closed its challenging 2011 with an increase of 7.2 percent from $1,181 in November to $1,266 in December.

Chrysler, meanwhile, closed 2011 on a symbolic note. Its well-documented marketing and sales success this year led to far less reliance on incentive spending in December; the automaker's TCISM was down 26.8 percent last month compared to December 2010.

Average True Cost of Incentives® (TCISM) by Car Manufacturer
Manufacturer 11-Dec 11-Nov 10-Dec Dec 2011 vs. Nov 2011 Dec 2011 vs. Dec 2010
Chrysler $2,579 $2,519 $3,522 2.4% -26.8%
Ford $3,100 $3,028 $3,304 2.4% -6.2%
GM $3,346 $3,388 $3,255 -1.2% 2.8%
Honda $1,266 $1,181 $1,561 7.2% -18.9%
Nissan $2,330 $2,327 $2,229 0.1% 4.5%
Toyota $1,597 $1,563 $2,055 2.2% -22.3%
Industry $2,314 $2,272 $2,538 1.8% -8.8%
Source: Edmunds.com

Bucking the trend, General Motors stepped back its month-over-month incentive spending in December, dropping its average TCISM 1.2 percent to $3,346. The auto industry spent an average of $2,314 on incentives in December, up 1.8 percent over November, but down 8.8 percent from December 2010.

Edmunds.com's monthly True Cost of Incentives® (TCISM) report takes into account all automakers' various U.S. incentives programs, including subvented interest rates and lease programs, as well as cash rebates to consumers and dealers. To ensure the greatest possible accuracy, Edmunds.com bases its calculations on sales volume, including the mix of vehicle makes and models for each month, as well as on the proportion of vehicles for which each type of incentive was used.

About Edmunds.com, Inc.
Edmunds.com is a car-shopping Web site committed to helping people find the car that meets their every need. Almost 18 million visitors use our research, shopping and buying tools every month to make an easy and informed decision on their next new or used car. Whether you're at the dealership or on the go, we're always by your side with our five-star Edmunds.com iPhone and iPad apps and our Edmunds.com Android App. Our comprehensive car reviews, shopping tips, photos, videos and feature stories offer a friendly and authentic approach to the automotive world. We're based in Santa Monica, Calif., but you can connect with us from anywhere by following @Edmunds on Twitter or by becoming a fan of Edmunds.com on Facebook.

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