> 2012 sales: 131,534 (down 3.4%)
> Share of luxury market: 9.2%
> Top-selling model: SRX
The troubled luxury division of GM had the largest percentage drop in unit sales among the top 10 luxury brands in the United States. Cadillac’s best seller is the aging SRX crossover, which has a base price of $37,155 and can run above $58,000 fully loaded for its all-wheel drive “Premium” model. Total sales of the SRX in the first 11 months were 51,085. Cadillac’s mid-sized CTS car has started to lose momentum as it ages. Sales of units fell 12.1% in the first 11 months to 43,607. The CTS series includes a coupe, a sedan,and the CTS-V “supercar.” The V has a 558-horsepower engine that propels the car from 0 to 60 in 3.9 seconds. The car sells for as much as $74,910. Cadillac’s shaky hopes rest on its new, small ATS, which has a base price of $33,095, and its XTS full-sized sedan, which has a base price of $44,075.
> 2012 sales: 140,182 (up 27.2%)
> Share of luxury market: 9.8%
> Top-selling model: MDX
Honda’s Acura division has models that tend to be priced toward the lower end of the luxury range. Its most expensive model, the ZDX, has a base price of $50,920. The low-end ILX has Acura’s best-selling vehicle is its mid-sized SUV, the MDX, of which 45,785 have been sold this year. The second best-selling Acura so far in 2012 has been the mid-sized TL sedan. The TL comes in seven versions, starting with the base model for $35,905 and moving up to the SH-AWD version, which sells for over $50,000. Features available on this model include technology that tracks blind spots and real-time weather reports.
> 2012 sales: 213,555 (up 23.3%)
> Share of luxury market: 15.0%
> Top-selling model: RX
Lexus was the best-selling luxury line in America for 11 consecutive years, until 2011. The primary reason for its loss of that position was the shuttering of a number of Toyota’s manufacturing facilities after the Japanese earthquake. Lexus showed a substantial recovery this year with a rise in unit sales of 23.3%, second only to Acura. Lexus has an extremely broad line-up of 15 models, with base prices from $31,850 for the CT hybrid to $375,000 for the LFA “supercar.” The few people who could afford the LFA have the opportunity to own a carbon-fiber-based body, under which is a 4.8-liter V10 engine that generates 552 horsepower, and orthopedically designed seats. For most other people who shop for luxury cars, Lexus has three SUVs — the RX, GX and LX. The RX is the best-selling of the Lexus lines, with 82,847 units sold so far this year. Lexus has four sedan models, topped by the flagship LS. The brand also markets five hybrid models.
> 2012 sales: 244,061 (up 10.4%)
> Share of luxury market: 17.1%
> Top-selling model: 3 Series
BMW and Mercedes will race until the end of the year before it is clear which is the top luxury brand in the United States. BMW won last year by a mere 2,715 units. Neither of the German companies has posted particularly strong growth this year. BWM’s percentage improvement barely made it into double digits for the first 11 months. Sales of its popular low-priced and mid-priced sedans — the 3-Series and 5 Series models — have each risen by less than 4%. BMW sold almost 89,000 3-Series cars so far, over a third of all sales, a sign of how critical the model is to the company’s overall success. BMW’s line is broken into 11 basic models, which include SUVs, sedans, coupes and hybrids. These have base sticker prices that range from a low of $31,200 for the 1-Series base coupe to $140,200 for the flagship 760Li. BMW’s swift movement into all-wheel drive may reflect the pressure coming from Audi. The majority of BMW’s models are offered with “xDrive,” its version of the technology.
> 2012 sales: 245,926 (up 12.0%)
>Share of luxury market: 17.3%
> Top-selling model: C-Class
Mercedes set a company record in U.S. sales for eight of 11 months this year, and December will also be a new high for the German automaker, Steve Cannon, CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, told the Detroit Free Press. It is hard to tell what bragging rights are worth because there may be a cost to owning the number one position. BusinessWeek recently reported that: “Daimler AG (DAI)’s Mercedes-Benz, guarding its U.S. luxury-auto sales lead, is letting some buyers skip more monthly payments than Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW) and offering as much as $5,000 discounts to VIP customers.” The Mercedes line-up is as broad as BMW’s — from the relatively inexpensive C-Class, which starts at $35,550, to the SLS AMG GT, which has a base price of $199,500. Mercedes has five sets of sedans and coupes, which offer various engines and amenities, four sets of SUVs, and two sets of roadsters. The company also maintains a performance line under the AMG badge. Mercedes has a huge parent based in Germany — Daimler AG.
Douglas A. McIntyre