Importers keep chipping away at Big 3 share in U.S. market

John K. Teahen Jr. The monthly sales report is a gold mine for the lover of automotive facts and figures. Every number has a story to tell. Here are some of those stories
Luxury leaders
Top sellers of luxury vehicles (over $38,000) for the first 8 months of this year
  Total Luxury % of luxury sales
Lincoln 112,010 103,343 92.3
Cadillac 108,028 99,798 92.4
Mercedes-Benz 134,619 92,304 68.6
Lexus 147,552 85,204 57.7
BMW 145,347 80,793 55.6
Jaguar 28,513 28,513 100
Porsche 17,029 17,029 100
No other maker has more than 50% of its sales in the luxury category. Source: Automotive News

Domestics drop

One guy's doldrums are another guy's high times. That's the story of light-vehicle sales in the United States for the first eight months of this year.

Domestic makes are in the doldrums. Each of the three players was down, and the combined deficit for General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and the Chrysler group was 9.5 percent.

But the Japanese, Europeans and Koreans all had plus signs in front of their percentage changes. The gains were: Japan, 1.8 percent; Europe, 4.0 percent; Korea, 28.5 percent. Combined, they were up 4.3 percent.

And the domestic makers were down 3.2 percentage points in market share. The domestics controlled barely more than three-fifths of their home market - 63.1 percent.

Lincoln's on top

Lincoln is not having a good year; its eight-month sales were down 16.3 percent. But it has risen to the top of the heap in luxury-vehicle sales.

Notice that I did not say Lincoln is the best-selling luxury brand. That distinction belongs to Lexus, followed by BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Lincoln is fourth overall, and Cadillac is fifth among the major sellers.

But Lincoln sells more luxury vehicles - as defined by the government - than any of its rivals. January through August, an estimated 103,343 of Lincoln's 112,010 sales were luxury cars and trucks, defined by the federal government as those with a transaction price of more than $38,000.

The federal luxury tax is 4 percent of the amount by which a vehicle's purchase price exceeds $38,000.

I don't have access to transaction prices, so I use the manufacturer's suggested retail price, adjusted for freight and optional equipment. And that puts Lincoln on top, followed by Cadillac (the perennial leader), Mercedes, Lexus and BMW.

Luxury sales and total sales differ for most brands because nearly every luxury brand sells some models that do not meet the luxury price test - such as the Lincoln LS V-6, Cadillac Catera, Lexus GS 300 and most of the BMW 3- series models.

On a percentage basis, the leaders are Jaguar and Porsche. All of their models are in the luxury class.

Another lost cause

For several years, I have been trying to persuade the auto industry to stop applying the term "OEM" to companies such as General Motors, Ford Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler and Toyota.

They are not Original Equipment Manufacturers; they are Original Equipment Users. The Original Equipment Manufacturers are Dana, Lear, Johnson Controls, Robert Bosch, etc.

My efforts have been blessed with a notable lack of success.

But I don't give up easily. Now I have another lost cause to promote: It's time to stop referring to GM, Ford and Chrysler group as automakers. Sure, they make automobiles as a sideline, but they're primarily truckmakers. Consider these figures:

In the first eight months of this year, light trucks accounted for 68.2 percent of Chrysler group sales, 63.1 percent of Ford sales and 51.3 percent of GM sales.

I expect about as much success with this quest as I have had with my OEM campaign.

It's not easy to tilt at windmills.

ATTENTION COMMENTERS: Automotive News has monitored a significant increase in the number of personal attacks and abusive comments on our site. We encourage our readers to voice their opinions and argue their points. We expect disagreement. We do not expect our readers to turn on each other. We will be aggressively deleting all comments that personally attack another poster, or an article author, even if the comment is otherwise a well-argued observation. If we see repeated behavior, we will ban the commenter. Please help us maintain a civil level of discourse.

Email Newsletters
  • General newsletters
  • (Weekdays)
  • (Mondays)
  • (As needed)
  • Video newscasts
  • (Weekdays)
  • (Weekdays)
  • (Saturdays)
  • Special interest newsletters
  • (Thursdays)
  • (Tuesdays)
  • (Monthly)
  • (Monthly)
  • (Wednesdays)
  • (Bimonthly)
  • Special reports
  • (As needed)
  • (As needed)
  • Communication preferences
  • You can unsubscribe at any time through links in these emails. For more information, see our Privacy Policy.