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Though the first eight months of 2010, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz were in a dead heat in the race to be crowned the top-selling luxury brand in the States. But big-time September sales at Mercedes-Benz pulled the German marque ahead of Lexus by a substantial 3,000 units, really putting the heat on Toyota's luxury arm. Could Mercedes pull off the upset to unseat Lexus for the first time since 2000? Not if Lexus can help it.

USA Today reports that Lexus announced during dealer meetings this week that it will slap up to $3,000 in incentives on the hood of its vehicles in an effort to entice buyers to shell out for a new L-branded car, crossover or SUV. In some cases, Lexus will reportedly also resort to cut-rate financing rate in an effort to spur sales.

The move is a bit surprising given Lexus's penchant for asking for and receiving full retail for its products, though 2010 hasn't been the best year for the Japanese premium marque. Given the fact that Lexus has earned its success on the heels of a terrific reputation for quality, the recall of millions of Toyota and Lexus models for unintended acceleration issues has likely hurt sales and certainly dinged its reputation. Add in the fact that the high-volume ES350 and top-of-the-line LS are a bit long-in-the-tooth, and it adds up to a possibility that Lexus may lose its hard-earned sales crown.

[Source: USA Today]