By on February 15, 2015

2014 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG 4MaticMercedes-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.

% Change
Audi A8
 306 337 -9.2%
BMW 7-Series
 637 575 10.8%
Jaguar XJ
 275 394 -30.2%
Lexus LS
 666 634 5.0%
Mercedes-Benz S-Class
 1,566 1,281 22.2%
Porsche Panamera
 437 546 -20.0%
3,887 3,767 3.2%

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%.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class sales chartThe 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, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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56 Comments on “Cain’s Segments: January Sales Of Flagship Luxury Cars...”

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    The S Class is used by executive limo services, and the others are not. I wonder if the S Class would still dominate without the “fancy taxi” segment.

  • avatar

    Why are models from Bentley, Rolls Royce, Maserati and others left out of this comparison, am I missing something?

  • avatar

    “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.”

    Maybe that’s because the ’03/04 XJ looked like a Jag, while the current model could be an Anybrand design.

    • 0 avatar

      The XJ is the best-looking car in the segment, by far. The old three-box XJs were nice enough, but ultimately looked like a car from the 80’s with a face lift and a tummy tuck.

      • 0 avatar

        Personally I think the Quattroporte is the best looking sedan in the $70K-$125K group. Then it’s all basically equal style-wise until you hit the amphibious Panamera.

        Not that I hate the current XJ but I’m one of the people that preferred the retro styled version (which was one of my favorite looking cars). However I wasn’t in the market for a high-priced luxury sedan anyway so I can’t blame them for not catering to my tastes.

        I also like and own a lot of cars from the late 1980s/early1990s, so maybe you’re onto something.

        • 0 avatar

          The Quattroporte looks like a Buick Park Avenue, ventiports and all

          • 0 avatar

            Other than the side bling I don’t think it looks at all like PA, plus it isn’t like there is zero historical precedence for side ports in a Maserati.


          • 0 avatar

            Buick’s functioning ventiports is just as hysterical


      • 0 avatar

        We saw one on the highway yesterday – beautiful car – Jaguar has been for the most part a make that I’ve mostly enjoyed the design language (the Ford years were bleak) but wouldn’t touch with a 10 foot pole.

        • 0 avatar

          The XJ does stand out. It is quite large and has more presence than something like an LS. And it looks less “compensatory” than the 7-Series, which I find very vulgar now.

          That being said, I still like the one you could have up through 2011, and I’m not surprised it sold so much better because it was so superior looking at the time. But owning a Jag and attempting to drive it all the time is a no-go for most people.

          I’d still have the A8.

  • avatar

    The S-Class seems like a class above it’s current rivals in every way. Truly next-gen. The new 7 and LS can’t get here soon enough.

    I didn’t know the refreshed Audi was battling it out with the XJ at the bottom, I’ve always figured the A8 had so much more popularity and respect. Also didn’t know the LS was the second-best seller, reliability and the “comfort over everything” mantra must be paramount considering the car has been lightly refreshed since 2007. The Panamera is definitely holding it’s own.

    Always appreciate the sales breakdowns!

    • 0 avatar

      Would agree with the first part. I think the new S-class is the first model in a while (probably since the w140) that has actually been a car befitting its reputation and price.

      With the LS, in addition to reliability and durability, it seems to be a perennial sales favourite for being the 85% solution for 70% of the price. Stickering out at almost 30 grand less than their German competitors, does make it somewhat of a value proposition for those cross-shopping. This is even morseo if you consider Lexus maintenance is cheaper than MB my a decent margin.

    • 0 avatar

      Audi has always struggled in selling higher end sedans compared to BMW and MB, but over the past couple of years has overtaken Lexus (A6, A7 and A8 sales).

      A8 sales are in part diluted by A7 sales as are 7 Series sales by the 6 Series GC.

      • 0 avatar

        I previously (few months ago) asserted people shopping the A8 would now turn to the more stylish A7 as an alternative. And Darkwing or someone came and immediately told me I was wrong, that nobody in their right mind would cross-shop those two.

        But I agree with your point.

        • 0 avatar

          Well, it depends.

          Those who are primarily driven, or drive themselves but regularly seat adults or teens (boys) in the back wouldn’t cross-shop b/c they need/want the rear head-room but those who are pretty much the only person in the car (commuter) and/or have younger children may cross-shop (esp. if they want something that looks sleeker and drives sportier).

  • avatar

    Those 10,000 annual Tesla sales have got to be cutting into this market (by pricepoint).
    Can these volumes be profitable enough to spend big $$ to develope the next generation? Does falling new car volume translate to less popular used car presence, meaning lower resale values and rising new car lease rates?

  • avatar

    It is pathetic that America is unable to make a car in this segment. Wouldn’t it be possible for for example Cadillac to make a car like the S-, 7 or LS??

    • 0 avatar

      I agree, but they choose not too.

      • 0 avatar

        The upcoming CT6 debuting in New York is supposed to compete directly. GM’s wishes and reality are two very different things however *cough* ATS.

        • 0 avatar

          ATS is the best handling in the compact segment but that’s not what most buyers in the lux market are going for (prefer more interior space to top handling prowess).

          Since Cadillac will split the flagship line into 2 models, the CT6 and CT8, with the CT8 basically being the LWB model, interior room shouldn’t be an issue as it is with the ATS.

          And there probably will be a “4-door” coupe based on the Omega platform, as well as 3-row CUV.

          • 0 avatar

            The ATS has the handling/chassis down correct but CUE and the tiny rear seat makes it compromised. The best-selling 3-Series can afford a softened performance but whatever Cadillac puts out has to be an all-around success as they don’t have the brand equity to fall back on.

            I can easily see the CT6 being an excellent competitor in some areas, but not in all. The new CTS and V-Series models give me hope however, as they really don’t need any more ridicule.

            The next SRX will debut this fall and you are correct about the CT8/9, small/large CUV. There will also be a new ELR and sub-ATS-CLA fighter but I haven’t heard about an A7/CLS-style four-door coupe.

          • 0 avatar

            Yes, the biggest downfall for the ATS is having the least interior room in the segment, followed by CUE (but then again, there were all sorts of complaints about BMW’s iDrive when it 1st started out) and some interior bits which could have been better.

            The new SRX will help, but remaining FWD, really should be a Buick.

      • 0 avatar

        They decide not to because of the volume.
        Look at these.
        The best selling is the LS and it sits right next to the MKS!
        The MKS…the most hated car at TTAC!
        Might as well concentrate on the main show and forget about the side stuff.

    • 0 avatar

      Then dumbweight would be on every article about how cadillac has to discount the ZTS so they can get a fraction of s-class sales.

    • 0 avatar

      Excuse you, we had the DTS and that is as good as American cars can get, why would you want anything more?


  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Too much investment on the part of GM to make a Caddy good enough to take on these and what would happen if they build it and no one buys them, the loss would be catastrophic. Ford could only do it if they Buy JLR from Tata and “borrow” the Jag architecture.

  • avatar
    healthy skeptic

    If the point of this story is to give us an insightful real-world look into this market segment, then it has a huge hole in it without Tesla. Even if they don’t report, their numbers are fairly easy to estimate. They’d probably be a close second to MB at this point, so their impact on the market is too considerable to ignore.

  • avatar

    I’ve only owned 1 S Class, a ’92 S420 that had a window sticker of $95,000 in ’92. It was a truly an amazing luxury car. It was the only car in which the interior rear view mirror was also linked to the seat/steering/mirror memory! No rear view camera or backup sensors but little chrome poles that popped up on the rear fender when in reverse.
    Deservedly or not, the S Class is considered the best luxury car in the world. Forget just the US sales, look world-wide. No other car comes close. It is always at the forefront of automotive engineering, frills aside. When I brought mine, before the purchase I sent an email to the David E. Davis and asked his opinion. He replied, “The S Class is the most over-engineered car in the world and if you have an opportunity to buy one, do so.”
    I love Audi and Porsche, but the S Class is the best in its category.

    • 0 avatar

      Interesting – most S420’s I’ve seen don’t have the back-up pillars on them. I thought you had to get the S500 or + in order to get them. Maybe they were just standard on those variants, and an option on the 420.

  • avatar

    The S Class has owned that segment of the market for decades in North America. While M-B follows the same play book as the novelty of the new model starts wearing thin after 18 months, they launch a less expensive version of the S Class to uphold sales.

    Then they have a face lift after 3-4 years to keep the owners/lessee of the original motivated to trade for the new face lifted version.

    It will interesting to see how this version of the Maybach will perform in the market.

    Maserati is making inroads with the Ghibli.

  • avatar


  • avatar

    The price does make aussies cringe, i think the s-class starts at some $200k in OZ.

  • avatar

    So Tesla did not sell any cars this year?

  • avatar

    Although this S class is a fine automobile and will continue to outsell its rivals for some time to come it is apparent that the others on this list are in need of a new platform and not just a refresh. Both the A8 and 7 series will be receiving one in about a year or so.

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