Cain's Segments: Luxury Flagships

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
cain s segments luxury flagships

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.

AutoNov.2013Nov.2012% Change11 mos.201311 mos.2012%ChangeAudi A8503541-7.0%55825102+9.4%BMW 7-Series617939-34.3%98139676+1.4%Jaguar XJ465266+74.8%49854463+11.7%Lexus LS10391309-20.6%96637059+36.9%Mercedes-BenzS-Class19071374+38.8%11,44610,684+7.1%Porsche Panamera472680-30.6%49217131-31.0%Tesla Model S( Est.)1400800+75.0%16,9501620+946%—— —————Total6403 5909 +8.4% 63,360 45,735+38.5%
Join the conversation
3 of 34 comments
  • APaGttH APaGttH on Dec 12, 2013

    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.

  • Baggins Baggins on Dec 12, 2013

    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

  • Tassos Is there any reason you could not put the ACTUAL 348 mile number in the TITLE of the damned article, so I would not need to read the whole thing to find out?
  • Tassos Honda is bleeding billions in order to keep this loser Acura alive.In the REST of the world, Identical vehicles to Acuras are just called HONDAS. Best example, the NSX! It was NEVER called an "acura" outside the US.
  • Cprescott Very expensive all terrain golf cart.
  • 56m65711446 ALL AEB systems should be tested using a SES executive from DoT as the test dummy.
  • TheMrFreeze Wife and I bought just bought new (to us) daily drivers...both have manual transmissions and neither has any kind of "new" safety nanny technology in it. By choice. That's how we roll.