Premium new vehicle registrations in the U.S. climbed almost 5% in 2011 to 1.45 million units, driven in part by fierce competition between BMW and Mercedes-Benz for premium sales leadership (won by BMW). But this increase lagged behind the 10% improvement for the overall new vehicle industry, which was led by exceptional gains at Chrysler, Volkswagen and Hyundai.
In the premium market, nine of 11 segments gained ground in 2011, with two small-vehicle segments and one upper-end category showing the greatest improvements. Registrations in the Luxury Compact CUV category jumped 35%, mirroring a similar trend in non-luxury small crossovers. In the premium small crossover segment, BMW X3 registrations almost quadrupled after downtime in 2010 for re-tooling. The Land Rover Evoque and LR2 together saw registrations improve 41%, and the Mercedes-Benz GLK rose 12%. Luxury subcompacts also did well in 2011, with registrations climbing 19% due to more than 13,000 Lexus CT200H registrations versus none in 2010.
At the other end of the luxury market, the Prestige Fullsize Car segment also flourished, though this category is one of the smallest in the industry. The Bentley Mulsanne accounts for almost half of all registrations in this mini-segment, and Bentley dealers delivered almost 10 times as many Mulsannes in 2011 versus 2010.
Offsetting the gains described above were declines at two premium segments, including the Luxury Midsize SUV and Luxury Fullsize Car categories. The Luxury Midsize SUV segment includes just three models, so its performance was substantially pulled down by the 26% drop in Lexus GX sales. And the Luxury Fullsize Car segment suffered from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami (the Lexus LS was down 23%) and the discontinuation of two previously well-established cars (DTS – down 41%, Town Car – down 20%).
The Polk automotive forecast calls for the U.S. premium market to surpass 1.6 million units in 2012, thanks to the improving economy, several major product launches (Cadillac DTX, Lexus GS, BMW 3-Series, Acura ILX and others), and a revitalized Lexus. Posted by Tom Libby, Lead Analyst, North American Forecasting, Polk (02.15.2012)