Mercedes-Benz is set to stroll home with its third-straight U.S. luxury sales crown in 2017, with BMW and Lexus in a close race for second place — several thousand units behind Benz.
But by now, many industry watchers had expected Lexus would have returned to the top spot after getting beyond Toyota's unintended acceleration and tsunami crises from earlier in the decade. Lexus has not won the luxury sales race since 2010, which was the 11th straight year the brand finished first. So what gives?
"We made a conscious decision not to chase volume with lower-priced cars," Toyota North America CEO Jim Lentz told Automotive News last week. "How do you define luxury? Is luxury based on a transaction price? Is luxury based on a monthly payment? Is luxury based on a nameplate?
"I think we as an industry define it based on nameplate, and we don't believe we can provide the service to the customer at $25,000. We don't want to fall below a certain price level. We just don't want to chase volume for volume's sake. That's really where the difference is.
"I'm not sure how many customers bought our product because we were the No. 1 nameplate in the luxury world," Lentz added. "I don't think that really makes a difference."