Just when it seems American SUVs and pickup trucks are in full retreat, the Germans are slugging it out in the premium segment. Since 2003 BMW took control of the segment, which is 7 percent at 395,458 units last year, selling 66,435 X3s and 52,466 X5s in Europe, and now the Mercedes GLK and Audi Q5 are set to hit the market this autumn.

According to Automotive News, a BMW spokesman said the company feels more threatened by Mercedes' GLK class than Audi's Q5.

"A typical BMW customer is not going to move down to a Q5. There is more chance that they would go for something like a GLK. Just because Audi will price the car in the premium segment does not make it a premium vehicle," the spokesman said.

An Audi spokesman said: "Audi makes premium cars so the Q5 is a premium SUV. We will see what the customers have to say."

Set to debut before the end of the year are two special edition X3 models containing new technologies. Then in 2010 the second generation X3 would make its debut.

BMW X3 is Afraid of Mercedes GLK but not Audi Q5