For the past two years, BMW AG BMW.
XE +0.64% has reigned as the top-selling luxury car maker in the U.S. with Daimler AG DAI.XE +0.36% 's Mercedes-Benz a close second. This year, Mercedes has the inside track to grab the U.S. crown for 2013.
The German auto makers' battle for supremacy in the global luxury car market is paying off for customers with earlier holiday promotions that are lifting demand at U.S. retailers like Steve Shaheen.
"We feel the competitiveness of both manufacturers," said Mr. Shaheen, whose Michigan dealership sells Porsche, BMW and Mercedes vehicles. His November sales of the two brands were "neck and neck," he said. "It's always neck and neck between those two."
The BMW versus Mercedes contest will be in the spotlight when auto makers report November U.S. sales on Tuesday. For the first 10 months, Mercedes sold 245,145 cars in the U.S., 5,000 more than BMW. Mercedes' momentum has continued since then, helped by its new CLA small car that just arrived in showrooms. Meanwhile, BMW's U.S. arm has had to fight with other markets for allocations of a new X5 sport-utility vehicle, limiting its ability to drive sales in a key segment.
Executives at the two companies played down the significance of finishing first in U.S. luxury-car sales. But both brands are pushing U.S. dealers hard for a strong finish to the year, expanding end-of-year sales incentives for consumers and dealers even as they publicly discount the importance of being No. 1.
Steve Cannon, chief executive of Mercedes-Benz USA, said he is focusing on the remaining weeks of the year without predicting where the brand will finish. "If at the end, we are No. 1, that will be great. If one of our competitors manages to come out of nowhere to pull ahead of us, that's just fine."