Cain's Segments: January Sales Of Flagship Luxury Cars
Mercedes-Benz USA’s S-Class outsold its next-best-selling rival by more than two-to-one in January 2015. S-Class volume jumped 22% from the level achieved in January 2014, a year-ago period in which the latest S-Class was already on sale.
In other words, no longer are we observing massive S-Class upticks because the new car is being compared with the low late-in-lifecycle achievements of the W221 S-Class. Since the W222 S-Class arrived in the fall of 2013, more than 32,000 have been sold in the United States.
To those who said the flagship luxury market had veered away from cars to SUVs, Mercedes-Benz thus begs to differ.
The S-Class’s rivals, on the other hand, do not. While Mercedes-Benz in 2015 is likely to sell S-Classes like it’s 2006, its competitors are flagging, not just in early 2015 but over the last number of years.CarJanuary2015January2014% ChangeAudi A8 306337-9.2%BMW 7-Series 63757510.8%Jaguar XJ 275394-30.2%Lexus LS 6666345.0%Mercedes-Benz S-Class 1,5661,28122.2%Porsche Panamera 437546-20.0%————Total3,8873,7673.2%
Audi A8 volume climbed above 6000 units in 2013, but from that relatively low total A8 sales last year fell 6%. A8 volume slid by 31 units in January.
The BMW 7-Series averaged nearly 19,000 annual U.S. sales between 2002 and 2006. Fewer than 10,000 were sold last year. The 7er’s 11% uptick in January represented 62 extra sales compared with January of last year.
Jaguar’s XJ generated more than 10,000 sales in both 2003 and 2004, but XJ volume fell to a four-year low in 2014, when only 4329 were sold.
The Lexus LS outsold the S-Class as recently as 2009, but LS sales plunged 20% in 2014 to one-third the S-Class’s total.
Porsche’s Panamera is in many ways not an S-Class rival. It’s more of a four-door sports car. But with upper crust price tags and as Porsche’s only four-door car, it’s not a completely irrelevant comparison. Panamera volume hasn’t topped 7K since 2012 but increased, on a year-over-year basis, 6% last year. January sales dropped 20%.
The Panamera is likely more closely aligned with Mercedes-Benz’s CLS and Audi’s A7, cars which generated 406 and 285 January sales, respectively. There’s no breakdown available for Maserati, although the brand’s sales total fell 20% to 452. Bentley volume fell 50% to 96 units.
And what of the upstart competition from more affordable automakers? Big cars like the Lincoln MKS (up 2% to 645 in January) and Cadillac XTS (up 14% to 1882) are hardly S-Class competitors. Hyundai Equus sales dropped 33% to 220 units in January; the Kia K900 attracted 119 buyers.
We don’t even need those cars to draw attention to the S-Class’s high MSRP. Even in comparison with the A8, 7-Series, and XJ, the S-Class is wildly expensive. The S-Class’s $95,000 price of entry makes it some $20,000 dearer than the BMW and Jaguar; about $17,000 more than the Audi.
Buyers are nevertheless not deterred. Mercedes-Benz USA sold S-Classes in four-digit numbers in each of the last 16 months. During the same period of time, the 7-Series and LS only topped the 1K mark four times apiece.
Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.
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