(Bloomberg ) Daimler AG (DAI)'s Mercedes-Benz ceded leadership in the U.S. luxury market in 2012 because Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW) used "sales engineering" in December, the head of its U.S. operations said.
"There was some engineering, we'll call that sales engineering, to get to a number to say 'We're No. 1,'" Steve Cannon, chief executive officer of Mercedes-Benz USA, said in an interview with Betty Liu on Bloomberg Television. "That's a Pyrrhic victory for me."
BMW U.S. sales surged 39 percent in December, powered by the 3 Series and 5 Series, helping the Munich-based carmaker top U.S. luxury-auto deliveries for the second consecutive year. That surpassed Stuttgart, Germany-based Mercedes's 9.5 percent increase for the month. Mercedes lost the 2012 U.S. luxury- vehicle sales crown after being ahead through November.
BMW brand finished 2012 with 281,460 luxury vehicles sold, topping Mercedes-Benz by 7,326 excluding non-luxury models. The two German automakers sought to be the top U.S. luxury-auto brand after outselling Toyota Motor Corp. (7203)'s Lexus in 2011. Lexus was the top-selling luxury brand in the U.S. for 11 years until natural disasters in Asia curtailed vehicle production two years ago.
Kenn Sparks, a spokesman for BMW, didn't immediately respond to an e-mail seeking a comment on Cannon's remarks.
Mercedes has released a preview of a commercial featuring model Kate Upton due to air during the Super Bowl on Feb. 3 that will promote the new CLA sedan. The luxury small car will be introduced later this year.
"When we beat BMW and we do it straight up because we've out-marketed them, we've got better products than them, that's going to be a victory that I will celebrate," Cannon said.