The top three luxury auto brands boosted U.S. sales in June as high-end car companies and dealers added Ann Taylor shoppers to their Gucci-loving loyalists.
Sales of Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz cars and trucks rose 21 percent to 18,269 in June, while Bayerische Motoren Werke AG’s namesake brand boosted U.S. deliveries 15 percent to 19,182, the automakers said yesterday. The German brands narrowed the gap against Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus, which increased sales 2.7 percent to 17,332 cars and light trucks.
Luxury automobiles will continue to rebound if they can lure customers battered by the recession who are just starting to consider high-end cars, said Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing, which tracks luxury trends.
“Many people are looking at themselves and saying, ‘We’re really middle class, not upper class,’” Danziger said. “They’re realizing you can buy very acceptable fashion from Ann Taylor, you don’t need to go buy Gucci. It’s the same with cars.”
Lexus remains the group leader at the mid-year point with 107,430 sales. Mercedes sold 103,674 through six months and BMW delivered 100,632. All three have boosted sales this year, reversing last year’s trend. In 2009, U.S. sales fell 17 percent for Lexus, 15 percent for Mercedes and 21 percent for BMW.
Luxury brands can attract people who are recovering their wealth by focusing on entry-level models, Danziger said.
“They’re looking for real value, not the nameplate,” she said.
‘Room to Grow’
Lexus, Mercedes, BMW and other luxury brands are pulling those people in with incentives on leases, said Jesse Toprak, an auto-industry analyst at Truecar.com.
“Last year was so miserable for luxury brands, there’s a lot of room to grow,” Toprak said. “Those people hurt by what happened are starting to come back.”
As a result, the luxury sector will outpace overall U.S. sales for the rest of the year, Toprak said
Mercedes grew on E-Class sedan sales, which rose 75 percent from a year earlier to 4,865. Mercedes’ entry-level luxury sedan, the C-Class, had the most sales for the month at 5,563, up 21 percent.
BMW’s increase came on sales of its redesigned 5-Series sedan and the X5 sport utility vehicle, which both rose more than 40 percent.
A 6.6 percent decline in passenger car sales stunted Lexus’s growth. Sales of the IS sedan fell 17 percent to 2,863 in June, while the ES sedan’s sales dropped 14 percent to 3,366.
U.S. luxury brands were mixed.
General Motors Co.’s Cadillac sales rose 39 percent to 11,788 in June as its SRX sport utility vehicle jumped almost sixfold to 3,804. Cadillac has sold 64,785 cars and trucks this year.
Lincoln, Ford Motor Co.’s luxury unit, fell 11 percent to 6,318. Sales of the Town Car, MKS and MKX all declined by at least 21 percent.
Domestic luxury brands’ sales growth will stay slow because years of uncompetitive products have left them with an “image problem,” Toprak said.
“Most luxury buyers buy on image,” he said. “That’s the biggest hurdle for Lincoln and Cadillac to overcome. It’s going to be a 5- to 10-year process, but that process has started.”
Volkswagen AG’s Audi division sold 8,601 cars in June, up 14 percent from a year earlier. The company’s 48,440 sales in the first six months of 2010 are a record, the company said in a statement.
Porsche SE said U.S. sales more than doubled in June after a new version of the Cayenne sport-utility vehicle and the Panamera Gran Turismo car hit showrooms. Deliveries increased 137 percent to 2,141 cars and SUVs last month from a year earlier, the Stuttgart, Germany-based manufacturer said in a statement.
Acura, Honda Motor Co.’s luxury brand, said sales rose 31 percent in June to 10,839. The MDX sport utility vehicle spurred Toyko-based Honda’s increase with 3,847 sales, 64 percent more than last June.
Sales of Nissan Motor Co.’s Infiniti climbed to 8,304 in June, 32 percent higher than a year earlier.