Who's Winning Luxury Car Sales In The U.S.?

Luxury vehicle sales are expected to slow after a record-breaking 2015, say analysts ahead of Monday’s September sales reports.

“We knew all year that the comparisons would be difficult against last year’s record-breaker,” said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst at Autotrader. “At the moment, it’s too close to call as to whether 2016 will beat 2015’s record, but it is becoming more doubtful.”

For the past 10 years, sales for premium brands have grown faster than non-premium carmakers and SUVs have sold faster than cars. Though that trend is expected to continue, the market for new luxury cars and SUVs is beginning to cool after showing signs of tapering toward the end of 2015.

August was especially unkind to the luxury brands, with single-digit declines for BMW, Lexus, Nissan, Acura, and Infiniti.

Mercedes, which leads the luxury segment in volume, got a boost of 1.3% for the first eight months of 2016 from the introductions of the full-size GLS SUV, mid-size E-class sedan, and SLC roadster. The new Q7 full-size SUV helped lift Audi’s sales 3.5%, while Jaguar’s sales skyrocketed 73% with the arrival of the brand’s first-ever SUV, the F-PACE.

 

BMW’s sales have fallen 8.3% so far this year, but that’s after getting a lift last year from the new X1 compact crossover and 7-Series executive sedan. Lexus, whose sales are down 5.3% through August, benefitted last year from the introductions of the new NX compact crossover and RX sport utility vehicle.

“It’s really a portfolio game,”said Chris Hopson, senior analyst at IHS Automotive. “What’s fresher and newer?” 

verall, Edmunds projects that September sales will fall 1.7% over September a year ago. For the first nine months of the year, the research firm estimates that sales will rise .3% over last year to date.

Edmunds expects most mainstream automakers to announce year-over-year declines in September except for Toyota and Hyundai. Ford and Volkswagen are expected to fare the worst, with declines of 8.5% and 6.5%, respectively.