By on May 8, 2014

Porsche_Panamera_2013_Facelift3

The impact of Mercedes-Benz’s W222 S-Class has been keenly felt in America’s luxury car sector. The S-Class’s most direct rivals have been shunned in favour of the venerable Benz over the last seven months. And yet there’s no denying that big luxury SUVs have cast a shadow over these flagship luxury cars, nor is there any point rejecting the idea that Tesla’s Model S is stealing market share.

Among the traditional players in its category, however, the S-Class rules the roost. In April, specifically, S-Class volume was up 73%, and sales were 168% stronger than the volume achieved by the second-ranked Lexus LS, sales of which moved up by twelve units, year-over-year.

Sales of the third-ranked 7-Series were down 23%. 7-Series volume has tumbled in seven consecutive months, incidentally. In September, just as Mercedes-Benz USA dealers were readying the new S-Class and sales of their big car had fallen 58% to just 387 units, BMW USA reported more than 1700 7-Series sales for the first time since June 2010. The 7-Series must also battle the more attractive and similarly-priced 6-Series Gran Coupe in BMW’s own showrooms. Sales of the whole three-pronged 6-Series lineup are up 63% to 4610 units year-to-date, although April sales slid 36% to 483.

The drop-off to the S-Class’s remaining European competitors is significant. Porsche sold 517 Panameras in April, 1983 so far this year, little more than a quarter of what the S-Class accomplishes. And while that April Panamera mark is up slightly compared with April 2013, its well off the pace achieved in each of the previous three Aprils. Panamera sales reached their highest annual levels in 2010, the first full year of availability, when 7741 were sold. Porsche is on pace for fewer than 6000 Panamera sales in 2014.

A8 sales figures continue to surprise reviewers who often favour the big Audi. April volume was down 5%. Relative to sales of Audi flagships, A8 sales in 2013 were particularly high at 6300 units, but the steady decline over the last eight months indicates a less exciting 2014 year end number from Audi. (A8 sales had increased, year-over-year, in seven of 2013’s first eight months.)

The Jaguar XJ, a car which attracted 10,552 buyers in 2004 even when the S-Type was generating annual sales above 10K, is simply not a nameplate with that kind of popularity these days. 2013 sales marked an eight-year high, but at 5434 units, XJ sales were half what Jaguar had achieved a decade earlier. XJ volume is up 21% over the last two months; up 19% since the S-Class began crushing rivals in October.

Yet the XJ’s decline from those highs a decade ago is not unique in this class. Even if Mercedes-Benz USA sells 20,000 S-Class sedans in 2014, a lofty goal indeed, that’ll be down 35% from the level achieved in 2006, the year the GL-Class SUV arrived. BMW sold more than 20,000 7-Series sedans as recently as 2003, but they’ll be lucky to sell 10,000 in 2014. 10,000 Lexus LS sales are within the realm of reason for 2014, but that’s well off the annual average rate of 26,668 sold between 2004 and 2008, the last time Lexus sold more than 20,000 copies.

And what of the Tesla? Presumably some, if not most, Model S buyers were in fact going to buy another car had the all-electric Tesla not been available. At the low end, the Model S may align itself more closely to the E-Class and 5-Series than the S-Class and 7-Series, but we mention it here for the sake of clarity. The Automotive News Data Center estimated at the beginning of May that Tesla sales totalled 8066 units through four months, but even HybridCars.com’s 5400-unit U.S. estimate for January-April is on the high end of many guesses reported in the electric car blogosphere. Tesla says the company delivered 6457 units, globally, in the first three months of 2014.

Don’t forget Kia.

The K900 found 260 April buyers; 365 since it went on sale in March. Hyundai Equus sales were up 9% to 285 in April; up 12% to 1203 over the last four months. Mercedes-Benz also sold 2045 CLSs so far in 2014, a 12% drop, and Audi A7 sales are up 7% to 2922. Maserati has reported 3332 total sales in 2014, a 342% year-over-year increase, but sales aren’t broken down by specific models.

Auto
April
2014
April
2013
%
Change
4 mos.
2014
4 mos.
2013
%
Change
Audi A8
443 468 -5.1% 1,617 1,929 +9.4%
BMW 7-Series
674 871 -22.6% 2,556 3,209 -20.3%
Jaguar XJ
369 323 +14.2% 1,578 1,568 +0.6%
Lexus LS
712 700 +1.7% 2,679 3,560 -24.7%
Mercedes-Benz
S-Class
1,909 1,103 +73.1% 7,278 4,180 +74.1%
Porsche Panamera
517 501 +3.2% 1,983 1,885 +5.2%
Total
4,624
3,966 +16.6% 17,691 16,331 +8.3%
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66 Comments on “Cain’s Segments April 2014: Luxury Flagships...”


  • avatar
    Spartan

    I’m sure the new Range Rover is throwing a monkey wrench into this as well combined with people downsizing to midsize luxury cars.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      While the interior of the new RR is stunning, I am just not getting with the exterior like I did the previous model. The RR Sport styling x 135% doesn’t work for me.

    • 0 avatar
      VenomV12

      Yep, and now they have an L version of the big Range, it is squarely going after the S Class/7Series/A8 customers. Unless you want to have an S and a Range, it is hard to argue that for the same money, just not going for the Range Rover.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    How did that beached whale get up into the mountains?

    But for real, very ugly cheap-o wheels. No tints. And the tires are hanging off the edge of the road. If I were going to photograph my car, and I saw I’d parked with tires hanging off, I would re-park.

    The LS would sell better if it were more current, it’s not as new as the competitors. I’ve seen two brand new S-Class vehicles recently, and the front end is certainly striking and imposing. It’s an improvement over the previous model, which always had the wheel arches of a Mitsubishi Montero grafted on.

    • 0 avatar
      gtrslngr

      If the ‘ beached whale ‘ you’re referring to is the Porsche Panamera in the photo … well … hate to tell you this but that is one very serious and mighty fine tactical weapon of a 4dr salon ! Fact is in real world driving [ especially in RuF tune ] the Panamera Turbo will make mince meat of even the much lauded Ferrari FF . So how’d it get up into the mountains you ask ? By kicking the crap out of everything in its way and in grand style and comfort I might add . Drive one sometime . Especially in the mountains . It’ll take days to wipe that ___ eating grin off your face after you have . Guaranteed !

      • 0 avatar
        raresleeper

        The problem with the Panamera, gtrslingr, is- well… look at it.

        It looks like hell.

        I agree, Corey D, about the beached whale comment. Spot on, Sir.

        It’s horrendous and it’s hurting my eyes.

        Not sure what’s going on with Porsche lately.

        There was once a time I considered a Cayenne. I think the previous generation Cayennes look better than the new ones, as well.

        Again, I considered a Cayenne- until I saw the reliability ratings on them.

        Holy sh*t.

        • 0 avatar
          bd2

          The front of the Panamera is more than fine; the rear isn’t that great, but then again, I wouldn’t regard any of the flagship sedans as “lookers” and the Panamera is by far the best handling flagship sedan.

        • 0 avatar
          naterator

          Come on…it’s at least as attractive as the Consulier!

          EDIT: More than a passing resemblance between the Panamera and New Beetle, especially in rear 3/4 view.

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        You make me laugh.

        The Panamera is not the car of choice, if engine power is your thing. For $78k MSRP, you get 310 hp. It just barely beat a Camry V6 (268 hp).

        In comparison, a $49.6k Q70 has 330 hp, while a $62k Q70 has 420 hp.

        Porsche has about the least amount of power among all competing brands. You buy it for the look and rarity. But don’t pretend to buy it for the power.

      • 0 avatar
        naterator

        Fact is, in real world driving, I can’t get above 35 most of the time because the highways are so crowded.

    • 0 avatar
      alsorl

      I was thinking the same thoughts of a beached whale. Maybe it drives great. But it reminds me of a AMC Pacer rear with a 1998 Ford Taurus front. The design of the new Porsche’s are getting lost in translation of a well designed auto. Yes designed! Not engineering. That part, Porsche is ahead of the curve. But come on, it is so damn whale like in its dimensions and just butt ugly.

  • avatar
    gtrslngr

    I can personally guarantee you ….. Nobody thats looking at buying a Benz – BMW – Audi is even so much as considering a TESLA S ! The TESLA S in fact being a rich mans plaything [ as well as automotive jewelry for pretentious Green Weenies ] … whereas everything else is a Car . Operating – functioning and behaving as a … C-A-R

    Fact is the only thing the TESLA S is stealing of late are headlines put forth by a press buffaloed by Elon Musk’s Smoke & Mirrors hype while not paying attention to the facts at hand .

    But the main thing TESLA definitely is NOT stealing …. is profits . TESLA looking to take in another year of major losses despite stock sales – government subsidies – Carbon Credits profits etc [ NYTimes WSJ MSNBCFN Reuters etc ]

    Back to the main article though . Is it really any surprise to anyone in light of all their recent success as well as their comeback/recovery from the abysmal Daimler /Chrysler * years that Mercedes Benz is once again at the top o’ the heap ?

    * FIAT is about to find out what the results of pairing up with Chrysler in any way shape or form will be . Not that FIAT wasn’t in bad enough shape already before Obama gave FIAT SpA Chrysler/Dodge/JEEP.

    FCA – The disaster just waiting to happen

    • 0 avatar
      seth1065

      GTR,
      hate to burst your bubble but I know three guys in my town who got rid of the A8L, S class and a 7 series and all leased a telsa, none of them are in the tech field and all of them wanted something different then what you see in the train station parking lot of the golf course. At least they lease different colors I think.

    • 0 avatar
      alsorl

      Gtslngr.. Your way off on your stereotyping of the Testla owner. Infact there are 1 to 5 Teslas in my hospitals doctors parking lot everyday. And everyone of those owners are auto enthusiasts. One of them has had a M5 and ducati race bikes. The other two both owned Porsche’s. One of which was a Porsche Panamera gts. The others are not some 50+ fat lazy owners. Those doctors drive Bentleys, MB, and Porsche’s. Sure they are trendy autos. But so is Porsche for someone to purchase such a hideous looking upside down bathtub like a panamera.

  • avatar
    imag

    “The 7-Series must also battle the more attractive … 6-Series Gran Coupe.”

    You just threw that one out there like it was true ;)

    The S7 outdoes the S8 for me in the looks department, but to my eyes, the 7 series has a lot more class than the fat-faced Gran Coupe.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I’m surprised how many Lexus LS sales this shows. Seems like I NEVER see one.

    Of course, that could be because it looks like every other Lexus.

  • avatar

    The W221 S-550 STILL makes other cars look cheap by comparison – even though many of them have tried to improve their materials and cut to match its interior design.

    The W222 – while I HATE THE EXTERIOR – has an interior that’s out of this world. You can fit 5 of me in there – and I’m 6’6 …the very reason I leased a W221 back in 2006. The W222 with reclining back seats. TV monitors and tray tables is an airplane. I’m surprised Mercedes doesn’t offer live TV Satellite feeds for it. Just watch CNBC and Fox Business while I ride from one Bank to the next.

    My friend bought a Bentley Continental GT. Hadn’t seen him in a while since he went on vacation. He took me for a ride in it and I drove it – twin turbo V8 AWD. Very lovely, although some aspects of the interior looked dated (not what I’d expect from “post-W221″ luxury cars.
    [video is on my YT of it]

    I was considering a Panamera, but didn’t like anything about it.

    Model S interior is terrible compared to the cheaper Audi’s, Mercedes E-class, MKS, XTS and the SRT. It’s not comfortable at all. I drove one of my business partner’s Performance 85kWH models and although fast, I found the ride punishing and uncomfortable.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Why no Equis or Genesis sales listed?

    Is it because Hyundai still doesn’t separate coupe and sedan sales figures?

    • 0 avatar

      It’s because the EQUUS (sic) and Genesis aren’t considered “luxury” by anyone who knows what “luxury” means.

      They are basically “more- comfortable econoboxes”.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Aren’t you the one who praises the Azera as luxury and the K900 as luxury?

        • 0 avatar

          The K900 is a very luxurious, spacious, V8-equipped car…

          UNFORTUNATELY, it’s got a KIA badge on it smack dab in the center of the wheel. If it had a BMW badge, all things being equal, more buyers could stomach it.

          Maybe if I drive it fast enough, people will think it’s a 5-series?

          • 0 avatar
            Syke

            And there’s buyers out there who look at the car, not the status level of the badge on the hood. Yeah, they’re in the minority – overwhelmed by the show-off, leasing-but-being-quiet-about-it, status-seeking types.

      • 0 avatar
        WaftableTorque

        It’s comforting to know that the A3 or 320i drive can look across at a K900 or Equus driver and say to themselves “I’m winning”.

        • 0 avatar
          bd2

          Don’t forget the Mercedes A Class.

          And I guess those sanitation dept. workers driving a garbage truck with the MB tri-star affixed to the grill must be thinking that they are living the life of “luxury” (as the eponymous E Class taxi cab drivers).

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        @BTSR, not my fault that companies have to come up with creative spellings to avoid names that are trademarked. At least the cars received names not just ABC 123.

        • 0 avatar

          “KIA” sounds way to much like “IKEA” and “HYUNDAI” sounds way too much like Honda (when pronounced incorrectly).

          And you NEVER plaster a 3-letter name across a steering wheel. Even BMW doesn’t do that.

          If you can’t come up with a symbol to make the world recognize you, then YOU AIN’T LUXURY. You’re just a car.

          • 0 avatar
            bd2

            So, does the BMW Isetta (the Urkel-mobile) constitute “luxury” since it has a BMW badge?

            Or what about the Aston Cygnet?

            Slap some soft leather on a Toyota iQ and woila – a “luxury” car.

            Is the Euro Accord not “luxury”, but the NA TSX “luxury” despite being the SAME car?

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        So the JDM versions of the LS400 and LS430 weren’t “luxury
        sedans b/c they were sold as Toyotas?

        And the Japanese royal family ride in the Toyota Century (the flagship of the Toyota/Lexus fleet) and not the LS460 – and Toyota also sells a separate luxury sedan lineup with the Crown Series topped by the Crown Majesta.

        And all Infinitis and Acuras are still sold as Nissans and Hondas in Japan.

        I guess based on your assertion, we shouldn’t regard the GT-R and the Corvette as near exotics (much less the JDM Honda NSX).

        And I would think that F. Piech would disagree (VW Phaeton).

        • 0 avatar

          The GT-R and Corvette are in no way exotic.

          Not when any middle-aged balding murican’ can buy one for less than $50,000 with some miles on it. What’s the cheapest you’ve ever seen a Lamborghini?

          “LUXURY” means cutting edge technology, effortless power, exotic materials and highly-detailed crafstmanship which result in a higher pricetag.

          When you go luxury – you aren’t on a “budget”.

          • 0 avatar
            bd2

            Um, I stated NEAR-exotics and the GT-R and the Z06/ZR1 Vettes are near exotics.

            The GT-R starts at over $100k (which is higher than the 911) and can get over $150k with the Nismo edition.

            The new Stingray is a bargain in the US, but over in Europe, it’s close to the price of a 911 and the new ZR1 should push well into the $100k range.

            And you mean advanced technologies like the MagneRide that can be found in the Ferrari 599, F12, California and the Audi R8?

            And even you wouldn’t be able to argue that the Ford GT wasn’t an exotic (and not a near-exotic).

          • 0 avatar

            bd2

            You want a very simple way of knowing what “an exotic” is?

            In 100 years, show me the cars that are stored in airtight/ cooled environments while those cars you mentioned are either rotting away in some junk pile or crushed into cubes to make more cars.

          • 0 avatar
            bd2

            Again, I stated NEAR-exotics (do you have a problem with reading comprehension?) and even then, I seem to recall a museum or 2 dedicated to the Corvette with the Skyline GT-R also being included in museum collections.

            And that’s not even including private collections.

            Last year, a collector paid $3.2 million for a 1967 Corvette L88.

            And again, the Ford GT is by all accounts, an exotic.

            And by your standard, the LS400 was NOT a luxury sedan since Toyota priced it very aggressively, undercutting a well-equipped E Class (nevermind the S Class).

            Even today, the LS460 still undercuts the RWD Germans (the V8 S Class by $12k).

            And hate to tell ya, the vast majority of Lexus buyers (the ES and RX) are VALUE/budget buyers – opting for models built on a midsize (or larger) platform at compact prices.

            And this will only continue to increase with the addition of the NX (compact size for a sub-entry price).

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        “It’s because the EQUUS (sic) and Genesis aren’t considered “luxury” by anyone who knows what “luxury” means.”

        Not everyone defines “luxury” as a status symbol.

        • 0 avatar
          bd2

          I would think Prada and Hermes know more of what “luxury” is then he does – with the former developing the Prada Genesis with Hyundai and the latter, the Equus by Hermes.

          Wasn’t there some kind of Coach edition Lexus RX?

          _____

          “LUXURY” means cutting edge technology, effortless power, exotic materials and highly-detailed crafstmanship which result in a higher pricetag.

          When you go luxury – you aren’t on a “budget”.
          ______

          - I guess that cancels out any owners of the 5 Series, E Class, etc. since they couldn’t afford the flagship sedan (esp. those who opt for the 4 and 6 cyl) not to mention those who don’t opt for the 8 cyl, much less the 12 cyl flagships – since that would mean compromising (nevermind all the MBs and BMWs out there with faux leather, much less, gasp, cloth seats) and settling for a lesser thing.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            To me, luxury is a car that starts every morning. Not a lot of the vehicles on this list fit my standard.

        • 0 avatar
          jkross22

          +1

          The Genesis is definitely a luxury car. I don’t care what the badge says.

  • avatar
    WaftableTorque

    Timothy, you’re probably the best equipped person to figure out what happened the disappearing flagship buyer. I have several hypotheses, but without data from 2004 to 2011 I wouldn’t be able to see a trend.

    My candidate theories:
    -cannibalization by 4 door luxury coupes
    -cannibalization by full size SUV’s
    -cannibalization by midsize luxury sedans
    -cannibalization by midsize SUV’s
    -contraction of the true luxury market ($100k and up)
    -cannibalization by the down market push of former luxury brands like Bentley
    -exit of customers away from long product cycle (7+ years) models
    -pre-2007 flagship sales were artificially inflated due to interest rates, the property bubble, cheap gas, or some other external financial variable
    -Americans suddenly got smaller and decided they don’t need a 3 box form factor for carrying lots of stuff and people

    Ok, maybe not the last one. And I can already guess a bunch of others are incorrect, but it would be nice to be armed with facts and figures rather than conjectures.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      -Death/too old to drive of post-war people with money who loved the land barges of olde.

      -Addition of previously-exclusive tech/lux features to regular vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Pretty much spot on – except the market for $100k+ vehicles has only grown.

      Basically, many buyers have switched to luxury CUVs and these days, the midsize luxury sedans are about as big as the flagship sedans from a couple of generations ago.

      • 0 avatar
        WaftableTorque

        Heaven knows the data is out there. When Daniel Héraud was publishing his Road Report publications, he included demographic information on every car model buyer including gender of primary driver, household income, and percent who completed post-secondary. There must be someone out there still collecting this stuff.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    When I bought a Q7 I cross shopped it against an A6. Price was very similar, but the SUV just had some much more utility and ease of access.

    For similar prices, most non-enthusiasts will choose the vehicle that has more utility. Not to mention the average vehicle buyer age is going up and old people don’t like sliding down onto the ground to get in a low slung sedan. Sedans have less ground clearance than before thanks to aerodynamics. Look at the car in the picture. How much ground clearance does it have? 1mm, maybe 2?

  • avatar
    bd2

    And MB could have sold more of the S Class if they had greater supply.

    Sales of the 7 Series is down, but it’s aged and BMW didn’t do that great of a job with it from the start.

    The next 7 Series should correct all that.

    Not bad combined nos. for the Equus/K900 considering their age and lack of AWD.

  • avatar
    7402

    MB seems confused about the W222.

    The lines are anything but understated, but the color choices suggest an alter-ego that wants to pretend it’s understated. A quick glance at the manufacturer’s web site shows that I can have my S550 in a watered-down white, one of three different silver’s, my choice of no less than four blacks and blackish green or blackish blue which look pretty much like the colors that actually have the word “black” in their name.

    Sometimes I wonder if the designers simply had to deal with the reality of those black-looking panoramic roofs that pretty much rule out contrasting colors on aesthetics alone, or if the marketing folks just want to impost Teutonic sobriety on the rest of the world.

    Frankly, I’d happily take the car with a metal (i.e., body-colored) sunroof in one of the bright colors MB used in the 1960-1980s. Red anyone?

    • 0 avatar
      naterator

      Seafoam metallic, please. With matching painted wheels. 280SEL style.

      • 0 avatar
        7402

        DB 261 Seafoam Metalic, great color.

        May I also suggest:

        Arabian Gray
        Light Gray (MB racing livery color from 1961-1964)
        Horizon Blue
        350 Medium Blue
        460 Maroon
        501 Orient Red
        534 Fire Red
        516 Medium Red
        620 Light Ivory
        630 Yellow
        929 Nautical Blue

        Obviously, I’m not a fan of metalic paint, but this is a small sample of what MB could do using their own color library.

  • avatar
    hreardon

    The S-Class is that one rare car that really seems to earn and deserve the respect it gets. The damned thing just looks like it means business. The new one really does look nice. My only nit to pick on it is the goofy steering wheel, but otherwise, were I in the market for a big and cushy autobahn cruiser, this Audi guy would take the Merc every day of the week.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Yep, Mercedes does a splendid job with its top of the line models. They are truly special. And then we have the rest of the line…the E class still has some of that old Mercedes mojo, but the C-class is overpriced crud, and don’t get me started on the CLA, whose only purpose in life appears to be to make Ford Focus drivers feel incredibly smart.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    “Maserati has reported 3332 total sales in 2014, a 342% year-over-year increase, but sales aren’t broken down by specific models.”

    This one puzzles me. Maserati has been synonymous with “the worst depreciating exotic car in the USA” for a very long time. The current line-up doesn’t have anything that is competitive in the market segments they inhabit.

    If that number came from Maserati directly, I would love to see the proof in their pudding. They may have produced that much… but sold?

  • avatar
    LuciferV8

    Good God, I love me these land yachts, but I also like a good SUV as well.
    I suppose I’m part of the problem here, but I don’t think the full size luxo-sedan is ever going away.

    It fills a niche that no other car can and provides a driving experience that no SUV will match.


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