Though kept out of the top-selling luxury brand slot by Lexus, Mercedes-Benz USA is still claiming record-breaking sales of 205,614 vehicles in 2000.

The 2000 sales volume was the highest in the company's history and an 8.5 percent increase over the last year's previous high of 189,437 vehicles sold in 1999.

December sales also set an all-time record with 20,306 vehicles -- a 6.2 percent increase over the 19,118 vehicles sold in December 1999.

The M-Class sport utility vehicle was the top-selling Mercedes in 2000 with 52,764 vehicles sold, up 16.7 percent, followed by the E-Class whose 49,592 sales decreased by 1.2 percent due, Mercedes says, to the dumping of the E300 Diesel.

The all-new C-Class launched in September helped the entry-level model line to a 16 percent increase to 34,600 units and the company expects the C-Class to play an even stronger role once the upcoming coupe and wagon models are launched.

At the high end, the S-Class flagship sedans also achieved a record year with sales up 5.7 percent to 30,315. The top-line CL-Class finished up with 2,208 vehicles sold (vs. 402 in 1999) while the CLK family of coupes and cabriolets also established a sales record for the year with 17,796, an increase of 6.5 percent (vs. 16,714). SLK roadster sales increased 22 percent to 12,930 but the SL coupe/roadster, now in its 11th year on the market, slumped to 5,409 sales from 7,853 in 1999.