BMW has outsold its main rival Mercedes-Benz since 2005 but analysts predict that Mercedes could take back the lead as early as next year. BMW is already ahead of Mercedes for the first four months of the year, and is estimated by Morgan Stanley to top 1.236 million vehicle sales this year with Mercedes not far behind on 1.165 million sales.

According to a senior analyst in the London office of Morgan Stanley, Adam Jonas, who spoke with Automotive News, the Mercedes sales estimate is on the conservative side and should be closer to 1.2 million units this year.

"So Mercedes isn't going to take the title this year, we don't believe," Jonas says. "But next year it will have a lot better chance." Next year, Mercedes will enjoy a full year of sales for its newly introduced C-class, as well as the redesigned E-class and the introduction of a new small SUV.

But the key to Mercedes’ long-term success is profitability, a fundamental goal of CEO Dieter Zetsche who’d rather see Mercedes number one in the profits takes rather than sales. "It is not a unit-sales competition," Zetsche explained, while speaking to Germany’s Focus magazine. "We want to grow profitably in the premium-car and premium-truck segments and position ourselves at the top."