Jaguar Leads Luxury Car Sales Surge

Douglas A. McIntyre

America’s richest consumers continue to be aggressive buyers of new high-end cars, as sales figures from February show. Jaguar led the way among the larger manufacturers with sales of 1,552, up 35%.

Jaguar’s surge had its foundation on a number of new models, particularly its F-Type Coupe, which was introduced by an ad during the Super Bowl. Jaguar, once known for its poor workmanship, has lost that reputation under new owner Tata Motors Ltd. (NYSE: TTM). Sales of Jaguar’s stablemate, Land Rover, rose 3% to 4,006.

The super luxury end of the market did particularly well. Maserati sales rose 426% to 837. Rolls-Royce sales were up 165% to 61.

Porsche sales continued a multiyear rise, fueled by its Cayenne SUV and its new Panamera sedan. It was not many years ago that the primary vehicle marketed by Porsche was its 911 coupe. The 911’s limited seating and trunk space made it a niche product. Porsche sales were up 15% to 3,232 in February.

Among the European imports with much larger sales, BMW and Mercedes continue to vie for the U.S. lead in the luxury category. BMW sales rose 3% to 22,017. Mercedes sales were also up 3%, to 24,030. The two companies benefit from model lines that include a number of sedans, coupes and SUVs. Audi, which has developed a model line that also includes these types of vehicles, has been chasing BMW and Mercedes. The Volkswagen unit sold 10,881 cars and SUVs, flat from last year.

The most notable thing about luxury cars sales is that even at the low end of their prices ranges, most of these manufacturers have vehicles with sticker prices over $30,000. Mid-priced models sell for $50,000 to $70,000. And all the largest luxury car companies have models priced above $100,000.

General Motor Co.’s (NYSE: GM) Cadillac and Ford Motor Co.’s (NYSE: F) Lincoln divisions would like to compete with European luxury car leaders BMW and Mercedes. Based on the sales volumes of the two imports, that is not likely.