It's time for the annual feature that infuriates some readers and causes others to smile smugly.
That, of course, is the rundown on true-luxury sales, and "true luxury" for 2008 meant a sticker price of $45,000 or more. The figure is my choice. We started at $40,000 several years ago because that was the price at which the federal luxury tax kicked in.
The tax is gone, but the price of luxury — like everything else — has gone up. It was $42,000 for 2007.
Luxury brand makers and dealers object to this rundown because it shows that some of their cars and trucks are not quite as luxurious as they would like consumers to think. Other industry people wear smug smiles because the fancy dans have gotten their comeuppance.
So what brand was the true-luxury winner in 2008? For the third year in a row, it was Mercedes-Benz. Its dealers made 153,987 of their 225,009 U.S. sales in the true-luxury segment. That's 68.4 percent.
Mercedes was third in overall luxury brand sales, trailing Lexus and BMW. But more of Mercedes' sales were in the highest price category. Mercedes finished on top even though almost all deliveries of its best-selling line, the C class, were in the under-$45,000 class.
Lexus was the top-selling luxury brand by a goodly margin, but only 23.5 percent of its sales were true luxury.
How so? Its three biggest sellers are the more modestly priced ES 350 and IS sedans and the RX 350 crossover. They made up 76 percent of Lexus sales and didn't leave much room for Lexus' true-luxury cars and trucks.
Cadillac, the leading domestic brand, put 96,070 true-luxury vehicles on the road or 59.6 percent of its total volume.
The Automotive News tabulation includes all major brands that counted at least 20 percent of their 2008 sales in the true-luxury segment. This year, there were 12 of them: three domestics (Cadillac, Lincoln, Hummer), four from Germany (BMW, Audi, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz), three from Japan (Lexus, Infiniti, Acura) and two from Great Britain (Jaguar and Land Rover). Volvo was included in 2007; last year, it did not meet the 20 percent requirement.
The U.S. sales of the 12 brands totaled 1,446,257 cars and light trucks last year, down 18.7 percent from 1,779,021 in 2007.
But reflecting the economic recession, the number of true-luxury sales dropped 30.1 percent, to 605,110 in 2008 from 865,646, for the same 12 brands in 2007.