A Teutonic Tussle…To The End


Photo courtesy of BMW of North America, LLC

At the top of the automotive heap, it ended with a 2,715 unit advantage. In political terms – someone would probably want to call a recount.

The luxury car market in the USA saw some extraordinary changes inside finance offices at their respective dealerships. Since 2000, Lexus was the top selling luxury automobile brand in the USA. A double whammy of the fallout from the corporate-wide recalls and natural disasters affecting Japan and key parts of Asia toppled the once mighty luxury arm of Toyota. In 2007, Lexus sold over 329,000 units – a record number of deliveries recorded by a luxury brand since 1990.

However, there were two luxury brands at the top of the heap: BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Both brands took advantage of the issues over at Lexus by wooing luxury car buyers with a diverse range of products and an air of confidence in everything from pre-sales engagement to post sales support.

The result was historic. For the first time ever, BMW became the best selling luxury brand in the USA. Their final tally for 2011 was 247,907. Mercedes-Benz came in second with 245,192 – hence the 2,715 unit gap between the two. In the luxury car business, that's a very close margin of victory.

Lexus came in third with 198,552 units – the first time the brand recorded sales under 200,000 units since 1999. Cadillac took in over 152,000 units, followed by Audi (117,000), Infiniti (98,000) and Lincoln (85,000).

Consider the scale of these figures. BMW sold 7,700 more units of their entire line than the entire year's worth of Toyota Corollas. Lincoln sold less than a 1,000 more units than the 2011 output of Kia Optimas. That is how much the luxury market is growing since the global financial crisis.

When the sales releases for the end of the year came out, we had not received anything from either BMW or Mercedes-Benz. It was as we were waiting for the end of the race for the U.S. Senate in Minnesota in 2008. Perhaps we were waiting for the start of the BCS Championship? The suspense simply killed us to no end.

Alas, on early Thursday morning, both BMW and Mercedes-Benz released their numbers. All is well in the automotive world – except for the shouting.

What about this year? Will we see the same kind of growth throughout all luxury brands? Will we see another tight sales race between the two German automakers? Will Lexus make a comeback? How about Cadillac or Audi? This may call for further analysis on here…

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