Mercedes-Benz sales were up 22 percent for the year through September while Lexus sales rose a more modest 9 percent. BMW also saw a 9 percent rise in sales for the same 9-month period.

The race is definitely a heated one for the title of top-selling luxury brand in the United States.

The lead now belongs to Mercedes-Benz which surpassed the usual leader Lexus by outselling the Japanese brand in the month of September and now leading in 2010 premium sales overall.

Sales of Mercedes-Benz vehicles, including the Sprinter van, are up 22 percent year-to-date for a total of 165,427 units. Lexus sales have risen a more modest 9 percent with 162,438 units sold so far this year through the end of September. BMW has also seen a 9 percent rise in its sales this year, selling 157,464 units in the same 9-month period. Overall, auto industry sales in the United States have been up 10 percent for the 9-month period in 2010.

But it's still a close race - Lexus had led Mercedes-Benz through the end of August by a mere 737 units.

"Lexus has been by far the luxury leader in this market and now Mercedes and BMW have closed that gap pretty rapidly," said Joe Barker, an auto industry analyst from IHS Automotive.

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