Category: Luxury

By on September 15, 2017

2018 Lexus LC - Image: LexusTiming is tough.

Toyota’s Lexus luxury marque launched the fourth-generation Lexus LS for the 2007 model year, just prior to an economic collapse that was followed up by an anti-car/pro-SUV shift. Lexus, which averaged more than 25,000 annual U.S. sales of its LS flagship sedan during its third generation and then topped 35,000 sales in 2007, suddenly found itself struggling to top the 10K marker.

As the fourth-gen LS’s tenure came to an end, Lexus watched as demand for the LS quickly collapsed. From fewer than 11,000 sales in 2013 and fewer than 9,000 in 2014 to barely more than 7,000 in 2015 and only 5,514 in 2016, the once hugely successful Lexus LS — a former leader of America’s large luxury sedan class and the car that was responsible for the genesis of Lexus — became an afterthought.

The fifth-generation Lexus LS is set to go on sale this winter, and Lexus expects to see a huge increase in demand for the new car in 2018. Lexus does not, however, expect the LS to generate anything like the kind of interest the big sedan did prior to the proverbial global financial crisis. Read More >

By on September 8, 2017

2017 Porsche 911 Carrera - Image: PorschePorsche revealed a new, third-generation Cayenne on a new platform late last month, but the U.S. arrival of the third version of Porsche’s original SUV won’t take place until the second half of 2018.

While the new Cayenne will be sold in some markets as a MY2018 vehicle, the 2018 Cayenne on this side of the Atlantic is the outgoing Cayenne. Yes, that Cayenne, the Cayenne that’s suffering from a sharp sales decline.

In August 2017, the Cayenne’s gradual and not entirely unpredictable old-age decline was matched to a sudden downward shift from its smaller sibling, as well. Macan sales plunged 29 percent last month. Cayenne volume was down 28 percent. Jointly, the duo lost 1,003 sales, year-over-year.

You know what that means. The overwhelming majority, the lion’s share, most, nearly half, more than a third of the vehicles sold in Porsche’s U.S. showrooms in August 2017 were sports cars. Yes, Porsche still builds sports cars, rather decent ones, in fact. And in August, Porsche’s sports car sales were very healthy indeed. Read More >

By on September 7, 2017

2017 Cadillac XT5 - Image: CadillacCadillac, with market-specific cars and a rapidly expanding dealer network, is increasingly a China-reliant GM luxury brand.

In four consecutive months, from April 2017 through July 2017, GM’s Cadillac division sold more new vehicles in China than in its U.S. home market. Indeed, so far this year, 48 percent of the Cadillacs sold around the world were sold in China. Thank a massive 67-percent year-over-year sales gain, stirred up by very healthy Chinese demand for the XT5.

But in August, for the first time since March, Cadillac’s U.S. dealer network reasserted its collective claim as the rightful nation for Cadillac sales success. That’s correct: Cadillac sold more vehicles in the United States in August 2017 than in China.

Albeit not many more. Read More >

By on September 7, 2017

2017 BMW 5 Series - Image: BMWBMW’s North American CEO, Bernhard Kuhnt, blames inventory issues for the brand’s sharp utility vehicle sales decline in August 2017.

BMW reported only 8,847 utility vehicle sales in August, a harsh 21-percent year-over-year drop for the five-model lineup. Sales of Spartanburg, South Carolina-built X3s, X4s, X5s, and X6s plunged 30 percent as BMW was fortunately boosted by — strange as it may sound — elevated passenger-car sales.

Has the tide turned? Is America’s BMW buyer forsaking his X3 for a 330i; her X5 for an M550i?

Don’t believe it for a second. Read More >

By on August 30, 2017

2015 Aston Martin DBX Concept - Image: Aston MartinYour dreams of an upmarket, V12-powered, British version of the 1996 GMC Yukon GT can be put to bed. The production version of 2015’s Aston Martin DBX Concept will not maintain the concept’s bodystyle.

Production vehicles periodically trace very little back to the concept vehicles that were originally intended to act as previews. Indeed, the defining element of the DBX shown in Geneva in March 2015 is gone. “There are aspects of the car that have changed dramatically,” Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer says, “perhaps none more so than the fact that it is now a four-door.”

Although the coupe format has been cast aside, Aston Martin’s boss believes the company will not have to trade beauty in exchange for true 4×4-ness. “If Aston Martin wants to survive, it must do a SUV,” Palmer says. And in this era, there are aspects of perceived SUV-ness that simply aren’t compatible with a two-door format. Read More >

By on August 29, 2017

2017 Mercedes-Benz C350e luxury grille - Image: Mercedes-BenzThrough the 2017 model year, Americans in search of a traditional entry luxury sedan could spend $350 to swap the Mercedes-Benz C-Class’s badge-emblazoned grille for an old classic.

Three horizontal bars, one vertical support, no badge.

The “Luxury” grille was also accompanied by unique bumper treatment and softer suspension.

But how were you to advertise the fact that you were, in fact, driving a Mercedes-Benz? There was a three-pointed star perched on top, a hood ornament in automotive parlance.

Unfortunately, the C-Class hood ornament that harkened back to a more elegant era has gone the way of crank windows.  Read More >

By on August 6, 2017

Müller-Ötvös and Rolls-Royce Phantom

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited is on track to become the highest volume automaker in the world someday. Management is keeping it under wraps but volume has been exploding over the last few years. For 2014, the brand delivered a record 4,063 cars, up 12 percent on its volume for 2013 — closing the gap with Toyota’s 10.23 million global sales.

Unfortunately, Rolls’ five year volume streak didn’t last but it is creeping back up after some minor setbacks. For 2016, the brand announced its second highest ever annual sales result in the marquee’s 113-year history, up 6 percent on its 2015 results, for a total of 4,011 global sales. While it looks like the premium automaker has — once again — placed Toyota’s volume back in its sights, Rolls-Royce doesn’t want to get too cocky and has implemented a strategy that should keep the customers pouring in.  Read More >

By on July 25, 2017

2016 Volvo Concept 40.1 - Image: VolvoThere’s no denying the Volvo 40.1 concept that previewed this fall’s production XC40 appears both to be sufficiently Volvo-like and sufficiently unlike anything else.

If the actual Volvo XC40 maintains this relatively unusual design, Volvo will have a viable, eye-catching alternative to the Audi Q3, BMW X1, Infiniti QX30, and Mercedes-Benz GLA before most luxury auto brands.

As for the Q3, X1, QX30, and GLA, Volvo isn’t entirely sold on their merits. Read More >

By on July 17, 2017

2017 BMW X1 white off road - Image: BMWDepending where you live, it’s possible the shift away from luxury cars to luxury SUVs is dramatically more apparent than America’s nationwide figures suggest.

In 48 of 50 states, luxury utility vehicles outsell luxury cars. In seven states, premium brand utility vehicles form more than 65 percent of the premium market.

But according to Edmunds, the two states in which luxury cars still outperform luxury utility vehicles account for 31 percent of America’s luxury SUV market. Read More >

By on July 17, 2017

2017 Cadillac Escalade

If Cadillac’s top boss, Johan de Nysschen, had his way, The Hunt for Red October would feature a scene in which Capt. Vasili Borodin describes his dream of seeing the United States in an Escalade, not an recreational vehicle.

While General Motors’ luxury division counts on American and Chinese buyers to keep it flush with cash, there’s still room in the fold for other markets. Assuming, of course, those citizens have a willingness to cast off deep-seated consumer habits and, perhaps, prejudices.

After dropping pedestrian vehicles for an all-prestige lineup, GM’s conquest of the Russian luxury market hasn’t yet occurred, though it’s still early days. Sales are looking up. With a new partner in tow, Cadillac feels confident it can muscle out the Germans on the streets of Moscow and St. Petersburg. Read More >

By on June 28, 2017

Image: 1988 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, via Craigslist

Check out these two words: Turbo Coupe. They roll off the tongue nicely, and all car enthusiasts should know exactly they mean — or used to. In 2017, they usually mean someone with a mullet is nearby, driving a beat-to-hell Thunderbird with peeling logos and ruined paint. Likely while listening to Whitesnake.

Our example today is what the term Turbo Coupe used to mean. It is perfect, painted a gleaming black, and on the floor there’s a five-speed manual. Here I go again…

Read More >

By on June 27, 2017

2018 Ram 2500 Limited Tungsten Edition, Image: FCA

As the current-generation Ram 1500 nears the end of its life cycle and its Heavy Duty siblings await either a refresh or something more significant, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has decided to offer its most luxurious pickup to date. Tungsten, which has the highest melting point and tensile strength of any metal on earth, lends its tough-sounding name to new Ram trim slotting above the existing top-rung Limited.

For 2018, the Limited Tungsten Edition becomes the latest and greatest pickup from an automaker known for tossing out special editions like Halloween candy. What can a buyer expect from a Ram 1500, 2500 or 3500 decked out in Tungsten duds? Well, besides an MSRP above $55,000 for a rear-drive 1500, you’ll find a truck Mick Jagger might enjoy. Read More >

By on June 19, 2017

A Class Concept Mercedes, Image: Daimler AG

Get ’em young and get ’em poor upwardly mobile. That seems to be Mercedes-Benz’s rationale behind the upcoming A-Class sedan, which should arrive in the U.S. later next year.

According to dealers who spoke to Automotive News, the German automaker has confirmed the front-wheel drive model will indeed appear on these shores, slotted below brand’s current least-expensive car, the CLA. No longer a somewhat geeky, Euro-centric mini hatch, the global A-Class appears tailor-made to lure buyers away from other brands. Read More >

By on June 15, 2017

2018 Lincoln MKC , Image: © 2017 Spiedbilde/The Truth About Carse

Lincoln’s littlest utility vehicle, the MKC, always risked being overshadowed by the larger offerings emanating from the resurgent luxury brand. That doesn’t mean it’s forgotten — either by the buying public or its builder.

The four-cylinder-only MKC went on sale in May 2014 as a 2015 model, heralding a new, decidedly non-Ford-like design direction for the brand’s utility vehicles. Sporting a toned-down version of the whale-like corporate split grille, the little utility was Lincoln’s first attempt to tap into the growing compact luxury CUV market. No longer was a Lincoln utility just a warmed-over Ford with a revised face and taillights.

Now that Lincoln’s moving away from the whale look, the 2018 MKC, judging by these spy photos, will follow the brand’s recent “Make like Continental!” design philosophy. Read More >

By on June 6, 2017

Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Alfa Romeo’s long-awaited Giulia sports sedan is finally trickling down to U.S. buyers in larger numbers and a performance-oriented Stelvio SUV should arrive this summer. You’d think cautious optimism for the re-introduced brand would be the order of the day. Instead, there’s massive optimism coming from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Stergio Marchionne and nothing but caution from industry analysts.

There’s also plenty of disagreement on how well the two vehicles will sell, and reality is leaning increasingly towards the analysts. Read More >

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