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Mercedes aims to oust BMW as top luxury brand
It's one of the most bitter battles in the American automotive marketplace, and it pits two of Germany's luxury automakers in a grab for the brass ring.
But this year, Mercedes-Benz is betting it can topple rival BMW to become the best-selling luxury automotive brand in the world's largest high-end market.
The maker has been staging a series of meetings with dealers across the country aimed at improving customer handling. Dealers, in turn, have spent about $1.5 billion to upgrade more than 90 percent of U.S. showrooms. The results appear to be paying off.
“Mercedes sets the benchmark,” said Fran O'Hagan, whose Pied Piper Prospective survey uses thousands of so-called “mystery shoppers” to measure how manufacturers are handling the sales and service process. Mercedes bested such stalwart competitors as BMW, Lexus and Audi in results released earlier this month.
And that's apparently helped it gain a leg up on BMW. It held a 2,000-unit lead over the Bavarian automaker for the first half of 2012 after narrowly losing the U.S. luxury sales crown in 2011. Anything can happen, especially if rivals BMW or Lexus ramp up incentives spending, Mercedes officials admit.
But it's clear they are ready to pull out the big guns to grab the ring this time.
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