Sport utilities and crossovers are still enjoying strong sales, however, the overall market took a hit in May, and luxury vehicles were smacked by the same problems as less expensive siblings: slow sales for sedans.
While the battle for luxury supremacy remains hot, it was especially challenging in May with two fewer selling days. Mercedes took the lightest hit of the top three luxury brands in the U.S. as sales fell just 1% in May, BMW was next down 6.4% for the month and Lexus was last at 10.1%.
“Sales continue at a steady pace in the second-quarter,” said Dietmar Exler, president and CEO of MBUSA. “Excitement is building as we look toward the coming months with the launch of three new dream cars, including the S-Class Cabriolet, SL and SLC Roadsters and the all-new E-Class Sedan.”
Each brand took a hit last month, two things remained constant: Mercedes is still the sales leader and luxury utes are posting volume increases while sedans declined.
For the year, Mercedes is down 1.9% at 134,304 units sold, meaning that the competition is really for second place and Lexus maintains a small lead in that race. Lexus has sold 125,785 units and is down 5.2% year-to-date while BMW brand is down 8.7% on sales of 124,581.
The second trend in the luxury market is that, just like their lower-priced siblings, SUVs and crossovers are the big sellers. Mercedes-Benz utes are all sporting increases over last year: GLA up 9.2%, GLC/GLK up 73.8% and GLE/M-Class up 6.4%. Only its GL/GLS is down this year at 5.7%.
(May auto sales declined due to fewer selling days. For more, Click Here.)
Conversely, sales of every one of Mercedes sedans were down substantially in May and are down for the year-to-date. Not surprisingly, Lexus new RX posted sales of 8,804 units, up more than 10% in May. For the year, the NX is up 16.2%, RX 11.7% and LX 57.3%.
“May finished at a lower than ideal supply for our luxury utility vehicles, a sign of continued demand, though likely limiting our full sales potential,” said Jeff Bracken, Lexus group vice president and general manager. “From the compact NX to the dramatically restyled RX and the off-road conquering GX & LX, our utility vehicle family continues to appeal to the preferences of U.S. consumers.”
Yup, sales of BMW Sports Activity Vehicles gave a boost to May with the new BMW X1 leading the way, increasing 93.9%, the BMW X3 increasing 28% and the BMW X6 jumping 26%.
(Click Here for details about April’s luxury sales in the U.S.)
“The shorter number of selling days in May no doubt affected the month totals but the ongoing transition to X models remains clear,” said Ludwig Willisch, President and CEO, BMW of North America. “The BMW X1 grows more popular each month with its siblings X3 and X6 giving it strong support. The X5 was limited only by availability but that will continue improving in the months ahead.”
Perhaps just as importantly, the overall hiccup in May seems unlikely to buck any sales trends this year, according to analysts.
“May sales, with two fewer selling days, are coming in mixed for automakers and an overall lower result, as expected,” said Stephanie Brinley, IHS Automotive senior analyst. “The outlook for the year remains for another record year, and nothing in May’s results suggests otherwise.
(To see what’s new for next year, Click Here.)
“SUVs continue to perform well, to the detriment of car sales, and generally brands with stronger SUV lineups are reaping the rewards. Despite a more difficult May, interest rates remain low and fundamentals solid. Our full-year forecast remains at 17.8 million units, which is a 1.8% year-over-year gain.”