NEW YORK – Helped by the hefty Sprinter commercial van and the diminutive Smart 2-seat city car, Mercedes-Benz USA will break its annual sales-volume record this year, predicts Steve Cannon, vice president-marketing.

“We should finish 2011 with sales that are north of 240,000 units” when the Sprinter and Smart are included in the total, he tells WardsAuto.

The German auto maker’s deliveries through November totaled 238,971, according to Ward’sdata. Cannon says that’s a 12% improvement over like-2010, adding, “We might drop to 10% by year-end, but it will be the first time we will trounce Lexus.”

Mercedes also is hot on the heels of BMW, trailing its German rival by fewer than 1,600 units over the year’s first 11 months. “Last year at that point, we were 40,000 units behind BMW.”

He predicts Mercedes will be back on top of the luxury segment soon – “where we belong.” But there will be no marketing campaign to trumpet that achievement, Cannon says, noting that such things aren’t important to car buyers. “It's nothing we are chasing.”

Mercedes will not introduce any sales gimmicks to finish 2011 in first place. The auto maker conducts two major promotional events, one during the summer and another in December, a hot sales season. “We try to remain competitive in the marketplace. This is what we do every year,” Cannon says. “But we didn't throw extra (incentives) money into the fourth quarter.”

Overall, Mercedes has an average transaction price that is about $10,000 higher than Audi and BMW, he claims.

Mercedes is basing its 2012 production plans on continued sales growth. Cannon expects the

brand will top its 2007 record of 253,173 deliveries, according to Ward’sdata. That total did not include Sprinter or Smart.

The Mercedes executive says a new-product blitz helped the auto maker increase its 2011 sales. But even the long-in-the-tooth GL, which is in the last year of its life cycle, enjoyed its second-highest month of deliveries in November. A next-generation model is to debut in the next model year.

Cannon says Mercedes set a monthly sales record with the entry-level C-Class, which notched 8,300 units in November. The recently introduced coupe accounted for 1,400 of those deliveries. While C-Class sedan prices average in the high $30,000s, coupes are selling for more than $40,000.

The C-Class surge also augurs well for Mercedes’ future because it is attracting younger buyers. “The coupe, which fetches a $1,500 premium, is a poster child for the C-Class,” Cannon says. It's actually driving sedan sales (higher).”

He predicts that by 2014 cars with 4-cyl. engines will represent 90% of C-Class deliveries. A

4-cyl. turbodiesel that debuts in 2015 in C-Class will be available in CLK and M-Class models, as well.

The only laggard in the auto maker’s portfolio is the R-Class that is selling just 120 units a month. Cannon says the R-Class could go away as early as next year, although no firm decision has been made.

Mercedes’ biggest sales growth will come at the low end of its lineup, the executive predicts. The CLC, a new entry-level model built on the A-Class platform, will be introduced in two years. A utility version of the CLC will debut later, with the auto maker introducing a 5-door A-Class hatchback about the same time.

These lower-priced models will draw a predominantly new generation of buyers, more so than current Mercedes owners who are downsizing, Cannon says. However, the auto maker also plans to expand future S-Class offerings including some new, longer-wheelbase models, especially now that the ultra-luxury Maybach is being discontinued.