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Lexus has once again topped its German competitors to become the best-selling premium brand in the United States market for 2010.

The Toyota Motor Corp. luxury marque sold 229,329 units in the U.S. in 2010. BMW came in second with 220,113 unit sales for the year. Mercedes-Benz was the third-place premium brand with 216,448 vehicles sold last year.

Lexus has been the leader in premium sales in the United States for over a decade. But it's grip on the title is slipping.

The Japanese brand's lead over BMW shrunk in 2010 to just 9,216 units, compared to 19,473 in 2009. Mercedes-Benz also saw its sales rise by 14 percent in 2010, compared to Lexus' 6.2 percent jump.

"They [Lexus] certainly got impacted negatively by the lingering recall news for Toyota, and we've also seen BMW and Benz being more aggressive when it came to incentive spending and marketing," said U.S. auto sales analyst Jesse Toprak of

VW Group's premium brand Audi also saw a large increase in sales of 23 percent for 2010 in the U.S. and selling more than 100,000 units for the first time. But those numbers still leave it way behind its arch-rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

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