Over the last several years, to say the US and world economy was not doing well would have been an understatement. Despite some economists and analysts saying the recession was over in the summer of 2009, for the consumer it appeared as though that was just fanciful thinking. The mortgage crisis, elevated gas prices and job cuts all created a bleak environment and it showed. One area noticeably hit by the poor economic forecast was the automotive industry. Many brands witnessed stagnant sales figures. Luxury car brands especially suffered lower sales figures as people saved money and bought more cautiously.
As there is a direct link between the luxury car industry and the economy, the recent improvement in the world economy had a visible effect on the types and numbers of cars being sold in the US. Within the last two years, luxury car sales figures have been gaining much ground thanks to an improving economy. Last year’s sales records showed that the luxury car market was well on its way to recovery and even expanding in certain sectors. This has seen notable luxury brands develop not only new generations of existing cars but introduce new lines of sedans and increasingly popular crossovers.
The following looks at the top 15 luxury brands in the United States. Figures are based on 2014 sales stats and the percentage of the market sales is indicated for each manufacturer. As you’ll see, the luxury car market in the United States is dominated as much by horsepower and performance as it is by leather interiors and ergonomics. All of the traditional brands are here and the various car lines and series you would expect to see are all represented. What is surprising is that the luxury market is as much the domain of the crossover and small SUV as it is the sedan or coupe. Clearly demonstrating the demand for crossovers among the population, luxury brands have made a point of offering many high-end options for the owners who need room for the family but don’t want a minivan.
15 Bentley – 0.2%
If this was a list of the most luxurious cars, then Bentley would put the others to shame. Since this is a list of sales in the US, Bentley finds itself at the other end of the spectrum. Bentley sales have been relatively low over the past several years. Unsurprisingly, this British carmaker (now owned by Volkswagen) felt the pinch of the financial crisis in 2009 when car sales plummeted to around 1,300. Since then, sales have gradually improved up to 2014 when the company sold 3,003 cars, their best year in the US since 2007. Considering the carmaker only produced just over 10,000 cars in 2014, it shows how important the US market is. Company leadership hopes to double the company’s sales over the next few years and plan to release an SUV to tap into a different part of the luxury car market.
14 Maserati – 0.7%
In 2014, Italian carmaker Maserati sold 12,943 cars in the US, a jump of 171% over the previous year. In part this was thanks to the sales of the new Maserati Ghibli which is basically a smaller and cheaper version of the company’s more famous Quattroporte. Traditionally, to afford a Maserati in the United States you needed well over $100,000. Thanks to the Ghibli, a mere $70,000 is now enough to get a 345hp, 3.0L twin-turbocharged Maserati into your garage. With the new introduction, as well as a planned SUV-crossover and AWD options for all its vehicles, expect Maserati to creep up the list of luxury carmakers in the United States over the coming years.
13 Jaguar – 0.8%
Jaguar is synonymous with luxury. While the carmaker has changed hands numerous times over the years, the brand has continued to be known for producing elegant, powerful and luxuries cars. In the US in 2014, Jaguar sold a total of 15,773 vehicles, down 7% from 2013. The loss in sales is being felt across nearly the entire range of jaguar cars. The XF, XJ and XK lines all either suffered a dip in 2014 or are continuing a long line of yearly drops. The one bright spot for the company is in the F-type, a two-seater, 3.0L or 5.0L supercharged sports car which is said to be the modern incarnation of the famous E-type. Last year, 4,300 of these cars were sold in the US. Jaguar will be hoping the F-type can continue these strong sales to compensate for the drop off in other car types.
12 Tesla – 1.4% (estimated)
In the last 15 years, over 3.5 million hybrid vehicles were sold in the United States. With cars such as the Toyota Prius leading the way in sales, it is obvious that a sustainable market exists for automotive manufacturers who specialize in unconventionally fuelled cars. Enter US automaker Tesla Motors. Tesla has become famous for being a maker of electric cars which don’t look like electric cars. Their most famous model is the Tesla Roadster but in the luxury market, the Tesla Model S has turned more than a few heads and opened just as many wallets. In 2014 estimates place the company’s total sales at 26,000 of which 16,500 were made up by the five-door luxury Model S. With anywhere from 235 to 691hp electric motors, available AWD and a fuel economy rating equivalent to more than 90 mpg, it’s no wonder this car is attracting a noticeable piece of the luxury market.
11 Porsche – 2.4%
Most people, when they think of Porsche, immediately imagine the famous curves and lines of the 911 sports car. While the 911 isn’t exactly a luxury vehicle, Porsche does manufacture a number of other vehicles which better fit the luxury car category. In 2014, Porsche sold 47,000 vehicles in the Unites States. Of this figure, roughly two-thirds were luxury vehicles. The clear #1 favorite among Porsche enthusiasts remained the Cayenne mid-sized crossover of which 16,200 were sold. The Cayenne provides a range of engines and power for every consumer who needs more than 911 size but also wants more excitement than you find in a minivan. Engines providing everything from 296hp to 493hp, including a hybrid, cover all the bases. Porsche, however, don’t rely solely on the Cayenne for luxury sales and continued to sell 5700 Panameras and 7200 of its newer compact crossovers, the Macan.
10 Land Rover – 2.7%
Land Rover breaks into the top 10 of luxury brand sales in the US thanks to selling 51,465 vehicles last year. This manufacturer may have started out building vehicles which were meant to be real off road performers in 1948, but over time function seems to have taken a back seat to form – at least as far as most consumers are concerned. Thankfully, today the company provides a line of SUVs which enable soccer moms all over the country to navigate those treacherous turtle-bumps and allow celebrities to grab a coffee in style. The best-selling Land Rover in America in 2014 was the Range Rover Sport. With engine options providing anything from 258 to 542hp and modern designs mixed with traditional Land Rover lines it’s no wonder people are willing to pay upwards of $96,000.
9 Volvo – 2.9%
For years Volvos seemed to all look exactly the same. They were boxy with relatively simple interiors and it seemed like they all came in blue or white. Even the sporty versions still resembled bricks on wheels. Then, it all began to change in the late 1990s and Volvos started becaming more modern looking. Sure, they kept distinctive Volvo features but the lines were smoothed and the image softened so much that the Swedish car manufacturer took a real bite out of the luxury car market in the US. Last year, Volvo’s total US cars sales were placed at 56,366. The driving force (pun intended) behind Volvo’s 2014 sales were the four-door S60 sedan (20,000 sold) and the XC60 crossover (19,000 sold). Both of these executive/entry-level luxury vehicles have come a long way from the 200 series, and all in the price range of $45-50,000.
8 Lincoln – 4.9%
Coming in at #8 is American luxury car company Lincoln. The Ford luxury brand was dominant in the 1990s but suffered over the last 20 years as foreign luxury brands began taking a bigger part of the market. Lincoln survived that dark period and reported US car sales in 2014 to be 94,747. Over one-third (34,000) of the Lincolns sold in the US last year were from the MKZ line. Available since 2006, the MKZ comes in both FWD and AWD layouts and is powered by three engine options – a 2.0L four-cylinder, 3.7L six-cylinder and a 2.0L four-cylinder hybrid. For those who want something a little bigger, but not as big as the Navigator, look no further than the Matthew McConaughey special – the Lincoln MKC. Thanks to the actor’s much parodied ads, 13,000 of these luxury crossovers were sold in the US last year. Alright, Alright.
7 Infiniti – 6.1%
Last year, car maker Infiniti sold over 117,000 vehicles in the United States. Despite what you may think, no, they were not all G35 coupes purchased by wanna-be race-car drivers. While the stereotype and jokes concerning the G35 coupe owner are all over the internet, they belong in another discussion – so let’s move on to the luxury sales of Infiniti. As Nissan’s luxury brand, Infiniti provides a range of vehicles which often resemble their Nissan counterparts but have additions like softer suspension, better audio equipment, navigation systems and leather interiors. By far, Infiniti’s best-selling luxury vehicles in the US in 2014 were the Q50 sedan and the QX60 crossover, selling 36,900 and 31,200 units respectively. The RWD/AWD Q50 has replaced the G sedan in Infiniti’s lineup and saw sales increase a massive 107% in 2014.
6 Acura – 8.7%
Japanese carmaker Acura, the luxury brand of Honda, saw its sales numbers stay relatively unchanged in the US from 2013 to 2014. Of the company’s nearly 168,000 total sales, two-thirds came from just two crossover-SUV models. The smaller RDX crossover, built since 2006, managed an impressive 44,800 sales. The mid-sized Acura MDX, built since 2000, saw sales jump 23% in 2014 with 65,600 sold. Both are powered by a 3.5L V6. The MDX’s sales probably gained a boost thanks to its use in Marvel’s The Avengers movie. In 2014, the line was also used in a series of retro-style and comedic commercials written by Jerry Seinfeld.
5 Cadillac – 8.8%
Having gone through a major overhaul of designs and a campaign to appeal to a younger consumer, Cadillac finds itself as the top American luxury car manufacturer. That said, the second-oldest American car manufacturer is still well off the pace of the top luxury companies, posting a sales drop of 6.5% in 2014 versus gains by everyone else above them in this list. Just edging out Japanese rival Acura for fifth spot, Cadillac’s main contribution to the luxury market is often believed to be the Escalade SUV. In 2014 around 30,500 Escalades were sold in the US, roughly similar to the company’s sales performance figures for the CTS and ATS. The big seller from Cadillac, and showing the strong market trend towards crossover vehicles, was the SRX of which more than 53,500 were sold last year. Nonetheless, Cadillac will need the SRX to continue to perform strongly or the company may suffer yet another slip in sales figures come next year.
4 Audi – 9.4%
German company Audi has been around since the 1930s and is known today as one of the big three German automakers. In the 1980s, Audi popularized ‘quattro’ a permanent full-time four-wheel drive system made legendary in its World Rally Championship car. In the 1990s, the company shifted focus to the more upscale market, traditionally the domain of BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Today, Audi is known as a performance and luxury brand which holds nearly 10% of the American luxury car market. The foundation of this success can be found in the sales of the Q5 crossover (42,420) and A4 ‘executive’ car (38,679). That said, almost every line of cars from this company appeals to American buyers with the A3, A5, A6 and Q7 all selling between 16,000 and 24,000 each in 2014.
3 Lexus – 16.1%
Stopping ze Germans from sweeping the podium in the luxury car market in the US is Toyota’s luxury brand. Lexus has seen American sales rise nearly 14% in 2014. In the overall American market, the Japanese carmaker doesn’t even break the top 10 with its 311,400 cars sold. In terms of luxury vehicles, however, it’s a different story. Leading the way with 107,490 sales, over a third of all of its cars sold, is the Lexus RX mid-sized crossover. Like most of the manufacturers already mentioned, the RX demonstrates the growing popularity of the crossover market. That said, Lexus also boasts good sales of its large and small luxury sedans. The ES and IS series of luxury sedans have proven very popular in America, selling a combined 123,866 cars. The real question for Lexus remains whether their RX, the best-selling luxury utility vehicle in the US, can maintain its crown for the 2015 year.
2 Mercedes-Benz – 17.1%
Runner-up in American luxury sales is German giant Mercedes-Benz. Very little needs to be said about this company as almost anyone who knows what a car is knows that Mercedes-Benz is all about luxury and performance. Fuelling the company’s push in the US luxury market is the very popular C-class sedan, a car which has entered into a new generation for this year. In total, 75,065 C-class cars were sold in 2014. One of the more popular versions of the C-class sold was the C300 featuring a 248hp V6 engine. The lineup also includes the top-performing C63 AMG series which, depending on trim level, produces anywhere from 450 to 510hp from a twin-turbo V8 engine. Of course, the C-class isn’t the only high selling car in Mercedes lineup. The company also benefitted from sales of the E-class (66,400), M-Class (46,726), GLK (35,000) and S-class (25,200).
1 BMW – 17.6%
At the top of the luxury market in the United States is BMW. Like Mercedes-Benz, this brand is well known around the world for combining luxury and performance in all of their vehicles. Since 1975, this German company has produced the 3-series car, a model which has maintained a high level of popularity since its inception. Recently, convertibles and coupes which were classified within the 3-Series were separated to form the new 4-Series line. That said, in 2014, the 3-Series/4-Series came first in luxury car sales every single month for a grand total of 142,232 cars sold – an increase of 19% over 2013 records. BMW’s mid-sized 5-Series luxury car was also well represented with 52,700 sold over the same period. In the small SUV-crossover market, BMW followed the trend of other makers by selling 80,800 vehicles belonging to the X3 and X5 class.
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