Mercedes-Benz is leading the luxury-vehicle race at the quarter pole, edging out BMW in January-March sales by less than 5,000 units but carrying a significant margin over Lexus.

SUV and cross/utility vehicle sales leadership among the three premium brands is proving an even tighter competition, with BMW narrowly out front.

BMW delivered 25,177 light trucks in the first quarter, with Mercedes close behind at 24,922 units (not including Sprinter) and Lexus at 24,561. The best single performer among light trucks in the first quarter was the Lexus RX CUV, with sales up 19.6% to 21,404.

Not including the Sprinter and Smart minicars, Mercedes notched overall sales of 69,187 vehicles for the first three months of the year, up 12.5% from like-2012. BMW placed a close second with 64,902 through March (not including Mini), up 5.5% from year-ago.

Lexus sold 56,740 vehicles in the first quarter, but it posted the highest year-over-year gain with a 15.6% increase from like-2012.

In the car segment, about 500 units separated the Mercedes C-Class and BMW 3-Series, both top sellers for their respective brands, in March. Sales of the 3-Series totaled 8,858, while C-Class reached 8,396.

However, to date, the C-Class is the best-selling luxury vehicle overall, with a 26.5% year-over-year gain. It is running more than 2,000 units ahead of the 3-Series, with deliveries down 16.3%.