Lexus Ranks First in Quarterly U.S. Luxury Sales

Lexus Ranks First in Jan-March 2010 U.S. Luxury Sales

With the inclusion of March’s sales numbers, Lexus has finished first in the U.S. luxury automotive sales race for the first quarter of 2010.  It’s been a tight race from January through March, with Mercedes-Benz taking the lead in January. As noted by Bloomberg, Lexus’ 42% sales increase in March to 20,219 vehicles sold for the month and 49,523 for the quarter kept it just ahead of Mercedes-Benz’ 19,637 March and 49,229 quarterly results.  BMW came in third with 18,060 March and 46,323 quarterly sales. Best-selling models kept the race lively:

Lexus benefited from a tripling of sales of its redesigned GX mid-size SUV, as well as increases of 30 percent for the RX sport-utility vehicle and 29 percent for the IS car, according to the statement from Toyota City, Japan-based Toyota. At Mercedes, sales of the E-Class more than doubled while the C-Class, its highest-volume model, rose 20 percent, the unit of Stuttgart, Germany-based Daimler said in a statement.

Automotive News noted that while Mercedes-Benz’s released sales totals have a slightly higher number, an accurate luxury market analysis would “exclude Sprinter vans formerly sold by Dodge—1,337 of them in the first quarter.”  A similar caveat applies to BMW, where the MINI brand vehicles are separately counted by auto analysts. The sales story is also affected by incentives—here’s how incentive pricing played out in the luxury market:

In March, BMW spent an average of $4,797 a vehicle on incentives, compared with $3,527 for Mercedes and $1,778 for Lexus, according to Edmunds.com. […] Cadillac spent a per-vehicle average of $4,307 on incentives, third among luxury brands behind BMW and Ford Motor Co.’s Lincoln, according to Edmunds.com.

Lexus has typically had some of the lowest incentives in the luxury market, and in the past few months this has remained largely the case. Lexus executives have long said that they don’t focus on volume, and are more interested in maintaining profitability and customer satisfaction and loyalty.  Incentive pricing also can lower resale value. However, comments from executives at BMW and Mercedes-Benz suggest they they are gunning for the top spot, with bragging rights being the main prize. As noted by Bloomberg, Lexus has held the top spot in U.S. luxury sales for a decade; the brand passed Cadillac as the top-seller in 2000.

[Sources:  BusinessWeek and TTAC]