By on December 12, 2013

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As expected, the arrival of Mercedes-Benz’s sixth-generation S-Class provided a massive boost in sales just as Mercedes-Benz’s all-new CLA-Class arrived at the bottom of the lineup. Traditionally seen as the market leader, the S-Class has attempted to put aside all doubts by attracting more than 1900 U.S. buyers in each of the last two months. It’s popular.

Its rivals from the top of competitors’ lineups are, by recent comparison, rather rare. The S-Class sold 84% more often than the Lexus LS, its next-best-selling rival, in November 2013. LS volume is higher than its been since 2010, but as is the case with the S-Class, sales in this category simply aren’t what they once were. Lexus is on pace for fewer than 11,000 LS sales this year, yet they sold 32,272 copies in 2004. Mercedes-Benz USA sold more than 30,000 S-Class sedans as recently as 2006, but shouldn’t top 14,000 sales in 2013.

BMW’s 7-Series surely sees some of its possible sales siphoned off by the advent of the 6-Series Gran Coupe, an exceedingly stylish and similarly-priced sedan. After falling 8% in 2011, 2% last year, 7-Series sales are up just 1% this year. BMW USA sold 22,006 7-Series sedans in 2002 but will likely sell half that many in 2013. Meanwhile, the three-pronged 6-Series lineup will sell close to 10,000 units in 2013, not much (if any) better than what it achieved in the 2004-2007 time period, but approximately quadruple what BMW managed in pre-Gran Coupe 2010.

With a meaningful 9% year-over-year year-to-date increase, the Audi A8 is selling about half as often as the Mercedes-Benz S-Class over the course of the last eleven months. Back in 2006, when Mercedes-Benz sold 30,886 S-Classes, Audi A8 volume totalled just 5038. Sales then fell consistently until Audi was below 2000 A8 units in 2009 and 2010. The A8’s 7% November decline followed a 1% drop in September and a 25% decline in October.

In terms of YTD U.S. volume, the Jaguar XJ is the Audi A8’s closest competitor. Year-over-year, XJ sales rose 4% to 10,552 in 2004, when Jaguar also sold 10,975 S-Types and 21,542 X-Types. Compared with 2012, XJ sales are up by 522 units through eleven months. 32% of the Jaguars sold in America this year – and 8% of the Jaguar-Land Rover products – have been XJ sedans.

The Panamera accounts for 13% of Porsche’s 2013 U.S. volume; 22% of Porsche’s non-Cayenne volume. November, however, wasn’t a particularly positive month for the Panamera, sales of which slid 31%; 35% compared with November 2010. 28,402 Panameras have been sold in the United States since the model went on sale in 2009. 7741 were sold in 2010, its best year so far.

The Panamera brings up an interesting point, of course, that of the Cayenne’s impact. Ignore price points for a moment, and consider the total year-to-date sales of these same automakers’ flagship utility vehicles: 13,699 Audi Q7s, 37,865 BMW X5s, 3950 Lexus LX570s, , 27,673 Mercedes GLs and 2295 G-Classes, 17,128 Cayennes, and 10,881 Range Rovers and 13,671 Range Rover Sports. Cadillac, Infiniti, and Lincoln don’t have genuine S-Class alternatives, but Cadillac has sold a total of 20,203 Escalades this year, Lincoln has sold 7671 Navigators, and QX56/QX80 volume is down 13% to 11,398.

Still wondering where large luxury limo sales went?

Still want to know what’s up with the Hyundai Equus, a car which is priced more in keeping with an E-Class than an S-Class? Sales are down 11% to 3226 in 2013. Hyundai USA set an Equus sales record with 435 sales in August. Cadillac XTS sales are up 147% to 29,889 in 2013; up 31% in a like-for-like six-month period. Lincoln MKS sales are down 13% to 9719 in 2013.

Tesla’s sales figures for the Model S, a vehicle with which you could form an S-Class-rivalling argument, aren’t released monthly or with specificity but are estimated to be around 16,950 through eleven months with approximately 1400 November sales. (We don’t ignore it for lack of relevance but because of data dearth.) The Audi A7 and Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class are down 2% to 7539 and down 0.5% to 7322, respectively. Total Maserati sales are up 55% to 3715 in 2013, total Bentley sales are up 21% to 2519, and other luxury marques don’t report monthly U.S. figures.

Auto
Nov.
2013
Nov.
2012
% Change
11 mos.
2013
11 mos.
2012
%
Change
Audi A8
503 541 -7.0% 5582 5102 +9.4%
BMW 7-Series
617 939 -34.3% 9813 9676 +1.4%
Jaguar XJ
465 266 +74.8% 4985 4463 +11.7%
Lexus LS
1039 1309 -20.6% 9663 7059 +36.9%
Mercedes-Benz
S-Class
1907 1374 +38.8% 11,446 10,684 +7.1%
Porsche Panamera
472 680 -30.6% 4921 7131 -31.0%
Tesla Model S
(HybridCars.com Est.)
1400 800 +75.0% 16,950 1620 +946%
Total
6403
5909 +8.4% 63,360 45,735 +38.5%
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34 Comments on “Cain’s Segments: Luxury Flagships...”


  • avatar

    W221 was better. Too bad you can’t get the W222′s ineterior into the W221′s body.

    The W222 does nothing differently except “being new”.

    “Perfume Air”??? Are you Fking kidding?

    I’d like to fill that canister with marijuana and see what happens.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    Though it may not be a direct comparison, I bet a lot of people do cross shop things like the S-Class with Escalade and Range Rover.

  • avatar

    Is the Model S a luxury car, or a $60,000 car with a $50,000 battery?

    When I think “luxury”, i think heated/cooled seats with massagers and soft materials all around that I could drive 400 miles without experiencing fatigue. Anyone drive 200 miles in a Model S? It’s not comfortable at all beyond being quiet- except for the tire howl.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      When I think luxury, I think advanced technology. The Tesla has it. To a significant degree, the S-Class just has gimicks.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        The Tesla is very much a one-trick pony. And if you need to go MORE than 300 miles in a day outside of some pretty limited areas, good luck.

        Neat car, but ultimately a toy.

        • 0 avatar
          Power6

          It IS a luxury car, in as much as having a fancy electric car is a luxury. The people who have them here west of Boston have the Range Rover and perhaps the S-Class too at home. LOL “only” 300 miles when you are 10-15 miles from Boston how much range do you need, and the $35/day parking garages have plenty of charging stalls so you could drive 300 miles to work and 300 miles home but you know those people can afford to live a bit closer to the financial district than that. You must live too far out in the woods or something krhodes.

    • 0 avatar
      arun

      I do remember how you were all gung-ho about the Tesla not too long ago….glad to see you at least being honest about its shortcomings.

      I do believe that the Tesla will continue making significant in-roads. I will just wait for the 3rd or 4th generation of the model. I see it very similar to the iPhone and Sony PS1 success. Both were the first of their kind (touchscreen phone and CD based games) and both became market leaders from being a nobody in the scene in the span of 1 generation based on the uniqueness factor of their product. The then market leaders were wiped out/ became insignificant in the long run.

      Can Tesla do that? Sure it can, keep expanding the Supercharger network, get a few more wins in states for direct sales, improve on the current Tesla’s deficiencies by the 3rd/ 4th generation and yes, it will do just great

      • 0 avatar

        The model S is a gimmick in and of itself. Owning an electric car that costs twice what an I.C.E equivalent would cost -and only can manage 275 miles between charges with the AC off – is a joke.

        I’m not gung ho about the car, but my stock shares matter.

        Advanced technology??? An iPad in portrait layout? A car that DOESN’T have as much safety tech or luxury features as a Chrysler 300 at half the price.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      You can’t buy a $60K model S, they dropped the entry level model.

      • 0 avatar

        Even still… A $100,000 model S is less equipped than a $40,000 Impala.

        Not to mention there’s just one model to choose from and they all look alike.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Well, the day an Impala can do five second sprints to 60, handle like a sports car, and look drop-dead gorgeous, all without using a drop of gas, I suppose you can compare them.

          And, yes, Teslas all “look alike”. So did Ferrari Daytonas, ’61 Continentals, split-window ’63 Corvettes, E-type Jags, and any number of other gorgeous cars. I don’t seem to recall anyone complaining about that.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Yesterday at about 4:30, I did my 3.3mile commute home here in SW Ohio.

          I saw two Model S’s.

          One of them was at a gas station with the hood up though, ha.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      In terms of style, exclusivity, craftmanship, performance and technology, I’d certainly say the Tesla is a luxury car. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but who says it has to be?

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        Not sure about craftsmanship and (some) interior materials as Tesla poured so much $$ into developing the propulsion system, platform, etc. – that they kinda scrimped on the interior.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          That’s not true of the ones I’ve seen – there isn’t a lot of flash in the interior aside from the displays, but it’s all obviously high quality materials and finish.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      It has pop out door handles! That and the lack of knobs, levers, or anything with tactile feedback about sums up the Tesla S, its a gimmick.

      When I thought “luxury” to me it meant high quality and good engineering all around with a big initial price, with Porsche, BMW, and Mercedes latest bottom barrel CUVsCamry copys, luxurys just means “prestigious badge” and “You’ll be trading it in 2 years later”.

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    It’s remarkable how the Model S has basically come from nowhere and zapped itself to the front of the line. I almost can’t believe it.

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    “The S-Class sold 84% more often than the Lexus LS, its next-best-selling rival, in November 2013.”

    I think you misspelled “leased”, in fact, all through the article you spell l-e-a-s-e and l-e-a-s-e-d as s-e-l-l and s-o-l-d. JB needs to do a better job editing ;-)

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Why does leasing have this stigma around here?

      Let’s face it, if you have the money to buy an S-class, you have the money to buy a new one every few years without even thinking twice about it. And if you are going to buy a new car every few years anyway, leasing makes a lot of sense. Plus I can tell you from my tax preparer days in the past, a HUGE number of leased luxury cars are leased to a business/practice, not an individual.

  • avatar
    RetroGrouch

    I like to think that BMW is reaping what they sow. Sell overcomplicated luxobarges that are nearly worthless beyond a CPO warranty and it will eventually catch up. In reality, BMW’s 5 year old F01 chassis is most likely considered to be long in the tooth by the typical megabuck barge leasee.

  • avatar
    cdnsfan27

    The A8 should be selling more than it does. It regularly wins comparison tests and is just beautifully put together. I suspect that Audi’s traditionally conservative residuals are the main culprit as most executive sedans are leased.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Here here. Most beautiful car interior I’ve ever been in was the D2 A8L.

    • 0 avatar
      Silvy_nonsense

      The A8 is a great car, but its an intellectual choice in a segment that is driven by ego. No one is buying the S-class because they have the practical need to move 5 people and also absolutely must have a perfume atomizer – they’re buying it because it reassures them they’ve made it and informs everyone else with no ambiguity what so ever of the same. There’s nothing wrong with any of that. Mercedes gets to capitalize on decades of advertising and purchasing that drives that image.

      • 0 avatar
        cdnsfan27

        Great comment Silvy, nice to see you back. The Audi is a better driver’s car but does not have the snob appeal of the S-Class. My favorite model right now is the S8…what a magnificent automobile, very discrete, comfortable, fast and has useful options vice a perfume dispenser:)

      • 0 avatar
        Power6

        When you aren’t bashing a Ford you make sense!

  • avatar

    Is any of those useful for self-driving? LS is clearly oriented towards people using a help. I know Tesla is for owner-drivers, but aside from that, A8 maybe?

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    So If Tesla has moved about 16.9K units through November of 2013, does this mean they are going to miss their 20K sales target?

    Based on the number I see on a daily basis in all different colors, it seems like 80% of those sold are running around here in Puget Sound.

    • 0 avatar
      Silvy_nonsense

      I’ve seen one in dark grey metallic, one in red and 782 in black (estimated). Maybe there was a Groupon on the black ones?

      According to Bloomberg, more Teslas are sold in Washington state per capita than anywhere else. http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-09-03/tesla-popularity-contest-model-s-mania-in-washington-state

  • avatar
    baggins

    On the drop in sales for teh S-class from 30K in 2006 to 14K this year, I suspect the launch of the GL Class SUV in 2007 has something to do with it.

    While the S class has more tricks and the cachet of being German made, a GL is a bit cheaper, quite a bit more spacious, and more capable of hauling people/cargo. Of course, it isnt as good at 110 MPH autobahn runs, but that isnt a requirement of a lot of people


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