Once again, it's time to make one U.S. luxury brand happy and several others mad.
It's the annual Automotive News rundown on which major brand sells the most "true" luxury cars and light trucks - those with a sticker price of $42,000 or more, including options.
In this case, Cadillac will be pleased; others won't be.
The $42,000 comes from the U.S. government's late and unlamented luxury tax, which kicked in at a transaction price of $40,000. The tax died at the beginning of 2002. Car and truck prices have continued to rise, so Automotive News now uses a benchmark of $42,000.
In 2004, Cadillac was the winner for the third year in a row, and it increased its margin considerably last year. In 2003, Cadillac topped Mercedes-Benz by 933 true luxury U.S. sales. In 2004, Cadillac's margin was 26,261. Mercedes was second again.
Cadillac chalked up 182,727 true luxury sales last year, and Mercedes had 156,466. Lexus was next in line with 152,223 followed by Lincoln (133,603) and BMW (129,895).
Only one other brand in the luxury segment had more than 35,000 true luxury sales. That was Acura, with 56,535. Most of those were loaded MDX sport wagons.
That order of finish differed from the ranking in the overall luxury segment. The 2004 leaders in that segment were, in order, Lexus, BMW, Cadillac, Mercedes, Acura and Lincoln.
If you're confused, you have a right to be. But the answer is simple.
Every major luxury brand except Porsche and Hummer sells cars and trucks that do not qualify as true luxury under the Automotive News standard of a sticker price of $42,000. They are counted in their make's overall tally, but not in this one. They include, for example, the Cadillac CTS, Mercedes C class, BMW 3 series, Lexus G 35 sedan and many Lexus RX 330 sport wagons and some Lincoln LS models.
Looking at percentage of sales represented by true luxury deliveries, Porsche and Hummer are 100 percent over $42,000. Lincoln has 96.1 percent of its sales in that class, and Cadillac has 78.0 percent (see box below).
It was good to know ya
Two of the proudest names in the Big 3 lexicon - the Pontiac Bonneville and the Buick LeSabre - will be off to that great auto show in the sky by the end of this year.
The Bonneville name has been used on the top-of-the-line Pontiac since 1958, when it was introduced to pep up the worst market since the start-up days immediately after World War II. The following year the Bonneville became the top Wide Track Pontiac, championed by Bunkie Knudsen, Pete Estes and John DeLorean.
The LeSabre bowed as a 1959 model along with the more powerful Buick Invicta (later Wildcat) and the plush Electra (now Park Avenue). They were the first of a new generation of Buicks.
The Bonneville and the LeSabre have a longer consecutive span on the market than any other Big 3 nameplate. The Chevrolet Corvette preceded them. But there was no 1983 Corvette.