Luxury sales are getting stronger.
Luxury and near-luxury vehicles accounted for 9.2 percent of U.S. light-vehicle sales in the first four months of the year, up from 8.7 percent in the corresponding period last year, according to the Automotive News Data Center.
And more upscale autos are coming.
The Chrysler group plans to craft high-volume luxury for the Chrysler brand with vehicles such as the 2004 Crossfire sports car and Pacifica wagon. The Pacifica will offer safety and styling, plus good entry and egress, says Wolfgang Bernhard, COO of the Chrysler group.
General Motors, which already has re-engineered the Cadillac brand, wants to make Buick a head-to-head competitor with Lexus. "It will be American premium luxury," says Gary Cowger, president of GM North America.
Bentley, one of the traditional ultraluxury brands, is emerging from under the shadow of Rolls-Royce. Although Bentley is owned by German automaker Volkswagen, it will maintain its Britishness and understated approach to luxury, says Alasdair Stewart, CEO of the U.S. arm of Bentley Motors.
Luxury and other topics are explored by Bernhard, Cowger and Stewart in our Talk From the Top interviews with North American chiefs.