When it comes to winning share in the ultracompetitive luxury car market, it helps to have more models on sale than your competitors.
The 2014 sales champion, BMW, offered more models -- 27 -- than any of its competitors. Audi was second with 25, followed by Mercedes-Benz with 19, Lexus with 16 and Cadillac with 12. All other luxury brands were in single digits, according to numbers supplied by Edmunds.com.
Spurred by aggressive product offensives, the leaders' showrooms are getting even fuller in 2015. BMW's model count jumps to 35 for 2015. Those include variants that hit niches other brands can't match. The 3 series, for example, comes as a sedan, wagon and Gran Turismo four-door hatchback, not to mention the M performance version.
Lexus grows from 16 vehicles in 2014 to 19 this year. Audi, which aspires to break into the top three in the U.S., grows from 25 models in 2014 to 29 this year, according to Edmunds. Mercedes' number holds at 19. No other luxury brands are in double digits in 2015.
The big German brands can afford to develop more vehicles because of their global footprint, says Larry Dominique, executive vice president for data solutions at TrueCar and former Nissan product planning chief.
"Brands like Mercedes and BMW have great advantages because they're global and high volume," Dominique said. "They sell 400,000 BMW 3 series alone."
By contrast, the entire Infiniti brand "sells a couple hundred thousand."
The global volume of the top brands helps enormously in amortizing the development cost of a new vehicle, Dominique said.
Selling such a large number of nameplates could prove a liability for some carmakers, says Dave Sullivan, analyst for AutoPacific. Developing, testing and marketing so many models around the world is not cheap, he says.
"There's a tremendous cost of keeping all of these nameplates," Sullivan said. "Think of it as a nest full of baby birds and you having to keep them fed and warm at the same time, or one of them will be dying off. It's a lot of babies to take care of."
The large product lineups can complicate life for dealers, too, he added, particularly in floorplan financing.
Whether the proliferation of models ultimately will hurt the luxury giants remains to be seen. It certainly doesn't seem to be affecting BMW yet, says Karl Brauer of Kelley Blue Book.
"Their volume's as high as it's ever been. They led last year in volume sales. They're making money. You can make an argument that from a pure business standpoint, it seems to work for them."