This list is for December 2012. Acura seems to be a long way from Lexus. Maybe that $1b dollar investment will bring them closer if not over. Only time will tell. Cadillac and Audi are creeping right behind Acura. The new Cadillac ATS might just throw it even closer. Acura needs to bring something crazy out!
> 2012 sales: 245,926 (up 12.0%)
>Share of luxury market: 17.3%
> Top-selling model: C-Class
Mercedes set a company record in U.S. sales for eight of 11 months this year, and December will also be a new high for the German automaker, Steve Cannon, CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, told the Detroit Free Press. It is hard to tell what bragging rights are worth because there may be a cost to owning the number one position. BusinessWeek recently reported that: “Daimler AG (DAI)’s Mercedes-Benz, guarding its U.S. luxury-auto sales lead, is letting some buyers skip more monthly payments than Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW) and offering as much as $5,000 discounts to VIP customers.” The Mercedes line-up is as broad as BMW’s — from the relatively inexpensive C-Class, which starts at $35,550, to the SLS AMG GT, which has a base price of $199,500. Mercedes has five sets of sedans and coupes, which offer various engines and amenities, four sets of SUVs, and two sets of roadsters. The company also maintains a performance line under the AMG badge. Mercedes has a huge parent based in Germany — Daimler AG.
> 2012 sales: 244,061 (up 10.4%)
> Share of luxury market: 17.1%
> Top-selling model: 3 Series
BMW and Mercedes will race until the end of the year before it is clear which is the top luxury brand in the United States. BMW won last year by a mere 2,715 units. Neither of the German companies has posted particularly strong growth this year. BWM’s percentage improvement barely made it into double digits for the first 11 months. Sales of its popular low-priced and mid-priced sedans — the 3-Series and 5 Series models — have each risen by less than 4%. BMW sold almost 89,000 3-Series cars so far, over a third of all sales, a sign of how critical the model is to the company’s overall success. BMW’s line is broken into 11 basic models, which include SUVs, sedans, coupes and hybrids. These have base sticker prices that range from a low of $31,200 for the 1-Series base coupe to $140,200 for the flagship 760Li. BMW’s swift movement into all-wheel drive may reflect the pressure coming from Audi. The majority of BMW’s models are offered with “xDrive,” its version of the technology.
> 2012 sales: 213,555 (up 23.3%)
> Share of luxury market: 15.0%
> Top-selling model: RX
Lexus was the best-selling luxury line in America for 11 consecutive years, until 2011. The primary reason for its loss of that position was the shuttering of a number of Toyota’s manufacturing facilities after the Japanese earthquake. Lexus showed a substantial recovery this year with a rise in unit sales of 23.3%, second only to Acura. Lexus has an extremely broad line-up of 15 models, with base prices from $31,850 for the CT hybrid to $375,000 for the LFA “supercar.” The few people who could afford the LFA have the opportunity to own a carbon-fiber-based body, under which is a 4.8-liter V10 engine that generates 552 horsepower, and orthopedically designed seats. For most other people who shop for luxury cars, Lexus has three SUVs — the RX, GX and LX. The RX is the best-selling of the Lexus lines, with 82,847 units sold so far this year. Lexus has four sedan models, topped by the flagship LS. The brand also markets five hybrid models.
> 2012 sales: 140,182 (up 27.2%)
> Share of luxury market: 9.8%
> Top-selling model: MDX
Honda’s Acura division has models that tend to be priced toward the lower end of the luxury range. Its most expensive model, the ZDX, has a base price of $50,920. The low-end ILX has Acura’s best-selling vehicle is its mid-sized SUV, the MDX, of which 45,785 have been sold this year. The second best-selling Acura so far in 2012 has been the mid-sized TL sedan. The TL comes in seven versions, starting with the base model for $35,905 and moving up to the SH-AWD version, which sells for over $50,000. Features available on this model include technology that tracks blind spots and real-time weather reports.
> 2012 sales: 131,534 (down 3.4%)
> Share of luxury market: 9.2%
> Top-selling model: SRX
The troubled luxury division of GM had the largest percentage drop in unit sales among the top 10 luxury brands in the United States. Cadillac’s best seller is the aging SRX crossover, which has a base price of $37,155 and can run above $58,000 fully loaded for its all-wheel drive “Premium” model. Total sales of the SRX in the first 11 months were 51,085. Cadillac’s mid-sized CTS car has started to lose momentum as it ages. Sales of units fell 12.1% in the first 11 months to 43,607. The CTS series includes a coupe, a sedan,and the CTS-V “supercar.” The V has a 558-horsepower engine that propels the car from 0 to 60 in 3.9 seconds. The car sells for as much as $74,910. Cadillac’s shaky hopes rest on its new, small ATS, which has a base price of $33,095, and its XTS full-sized sedan, which has a base price of $44,075.
> 2012 sales: 124,469 (up 18.6%)
> Share of luxury market: 8.7%
> Top-selling model: A4
Audi’s best known claim to fame is that all its vehicles have all-wheel drive. This has been true for decades, during which time many other luxury brands focused on rear-wheel drive vehicles. Audi has come into its own recently. Its low-end A4 has sold 32,044 units so far this year, while its entry-level Q5 SUV has sold 25,045. Audi’s A4 is the smallest of its sedans, which include the A6 and large A8. The S8 performance version of this last model has a base price of $110,000. Audi is one of the luxury car companies that produces and sells a “supercar.” Its version, the R8, includes one model with an engine that generates 525 horsepower, can go from 0 to 60 mph and in 3.7 seconds, and can cost as much as $185,000.
> 2012 sales: 106,872 (up 22.8%)
> Share of luxury market: 7.5%
> Top-selling model: G
Infiniti is the luxury division of Nissan, and it has often been seen as the weakest of the high-end Japanese nameplates, which include Honda Motor Co. Ltd.’s (NYSE: HMC) Acura and Toyota’s Lexus. Although Infiniti had a better than 20% increase in sales in the first 11 months, that rate was behind its two rivals. And Lexus sales are ahead of Infiniti by 2 to 1. Infiniti’s top-selling line by far is its G-Series, with 54,328 units sold year to date. Infiniti makes a G coupe, G sedan and G convertible, which range in price from $36,900 for the base sedan to $60,600 for the highest-end IPL G convertible. Infiniti maintains a fairly wide set of models, including modest and expensive sedans and coupes, three crossovers and a jumbo SUV — the QX, which has a base price of $60,650.
> 2012 sales: 74,766 (down 3.2%)
> Share of luxury market: 5.2%
> Top-selling model: MKZ
In early December, Ford decided to change the name of its luxury division from Lincoln to Lincoln Motor Co. It will take a good deal more than that for the high-end operation of the number two American car company to catch up to the most successful imports — or even GM’s Cadillac. According to CNN, Ford “is tacitly admitting that its sporadic efforts over the past 90 years to establish Lincoln as a top-tier luxury brand have failed, and it has to start over again.” USA Today reports that the first model from the newly launched line shows some promise: “It helps that Lincoln has an impressive new vehicle on the way, the redone MKZ with its distinctive looks and huge glass roof. Three other models are coming as well.”
> 2012 sales: 61,976 (up 0.01%)
> Share of luxury market: 4.3%
> Top-selling model: S60
Volvo is in a lot of trouble, so it is no shock that its market share in the luxury category is so low. The company recently reported that its operating profit fell by 84% in the first half of this year, compared to the same period in 2011. Volvo is currently owned by Chinese car maker Geely, but even with a fairly new owner, rumors of problems persist. Volvo has a very limited lineup of vehicles, which includes its C-Class coupes, S-Class sedans and X-Class crossovers. All of the most successful luxury manufacturers have a broad array of models, engines, models and features. Volvo’s overall share of the U.S. car market — luxury and otherwise — is 0.5%.
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