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Luxury vehicle is a marketing term for a vehicle that provides luxury — pleasant or desirable features beyond strict necessity -- at increased expense (see: definition of luxury).

The term suggests a vehicle with greater equipment, performance, construction precision, comfort, design ingenuity, technological innovation, or features that convey brand image, cachet, status, or prestige—or any other discretionary feature or combination of features.

A Duesenberg, "one of the greatest luxury cars"[1] with custom body by Willoughby.

Automobile manufactures market specific makes and models that are targeted at particular socio-economic classes, and thus "social status came to be associated more with a particular vehicle than ownership of a car per se."[2] Therefore, automakers differentiate among their product lines in "collusion" with the car-buying public.[2] While a high price is the most frequent factor, it is "styling, engineering, and even public opinion which cars had the highest and lowest status associated with them."[2]

Every era in automobile history has had "a group of car marques and models that have been expensive to purchase, due to their alleged superiority of their design and engineering. Aimed at wealthy buyers, such automobiles might be generically be termed luxury cars."[2] This term is also used for unique vehicles produced during "an era when luxury was individualistic consideration, and coachwork could be tailored to an owner like a bespoke suit."[3] Although there is considerable literature about specific marques, there is a lack of systematic and scholarly work that "analyzes the luxury car phenomenon itself."[2]

In contemporary usage, the term may be applied to any vehicle type— including sedan, coupe, hatchback, station wagon, and convertible body styles, as well as to minivans,[4][5] crossovers, or sport utility vehicles and to any size vehicle, from small to large—in any price range.[6]

Though widely used, the term luxury is broad and highly variable. It is a perceptual, conditional and subjective attribute and may be understood differently by different people: "What is a luxury car to some... may be 'ordinary' to others."[6]

Contents

Global references

According to the European Commission, the "luxury vehicle" segment is classified as F-segment. However, the boundaries between the traditional segments are increasingly becoming blurred and diluted as features once exclusive to luxury vehicles become standard equipment on even small cars.[7][8][9]

  • ACRISS is a code system used by many car rental companies in the US for classifying vehicles (but not brands or marques). The system includes Luxury and Premium categories.
  • Australia In Australia, for taxation purposes a luxury car is defined as a passenger car whose value exceeds a certain threshold[10] (see: Luxury Car Tax).[11]
  • Germany: In Germany the term "Upper class" (German: Oberklasse) is used.
  • Russia: Russian markets use the term "representative class vehicle" (Russian: автомобиль представительского класса, also translated as "luxury vehicle").[12]

Characteristics

Luxury cars tend to offer a higher degree of comfort than their mainstream counterparts, common amenities include genuine leather upholstery and polished "woodgrain-look" dashboards.[13] Compared to mainstream vehicles, luxury cars have traditionally emphasized comfort and safety, [14] while contemporary luxury cars also offer higher performance and better handling.[15][16] Luxury vehicles are also a status symbol for conspicuous consumption. [17]

Forbes noted that the reputation of luxury marques enables them to continually introduce many new safety technologies and comfort amenities, such as anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control and DVD entertainment systems, before they trickle down to mass market cars. Numerous "smart car" features are largely only found on luxury cars as of 2009. [17]

The rear-wheel drive with longitudinal engines (FR) is a common layout of luxury cars. European marques like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Jaguar have almost never adopted front-wheel drive and retained a lineup mostly or entirely made up of FR cars. Japanese brands such as Lexus and Infiniti also have predominantly FR lineups. The FR layout, while more expensive than the FF, has been retained by these luxury manufacturers as it allows for higher performance engines (particularly the straight-6, V8, and other engine configurations with more cylinders), better handling, and a smoother ride. [18] [19] [20]

American manufacturers also largely followed the FR for their luxury brands (as well as mass-market cars of the time). However, due to the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 and the 1979 fuel crises, began eliminating their FR platforms in favor of the more economical front wheel drive transverse engine layout (FF). Chrysler went 100% FF by 1990 and GM's Cadillac and Buick brands for the US were entirely FF by 1997. One of the few notable holdouts was Ford's Lincoln Town Car and Lincoln LS.[21] Cadillac will be entirely FR (with four-wheel drive available as an option on several models) by 2010.[22][23] Chrysler returned its full-size cars to this layout with the Chrysler 300.[22][23] Ford's Lincoln retained the longtime FR platform for the Town Car, intended for use as a limousine and chauffeured car,[24] but newer offerings such as the MKZ and MKS will use newer FF platforms shared with mainstream Ford vehicles, with all-wheel drive as an option.[25]

History and sales

In the United States luxury market, Cadillac and Lincoln had been long the best-selling and second best-selling luxury brands until 1998, when they had been overtaken by Japanese and German brands.[26] Since the 2000s, with the Cadillac CTS, the marque has seen a resurgence in sales and brand value.[27] Ford's Lincoln, which had seen sales fall as a result of an aging lineup, has attempted to return that luxury marque to competitiveness, by releasing new models such as the Lincoln MKS, as well as divesting itself of its other Premier Automotive Group brands.[28] Mercedes-Benz and BMW were the top-selling luxury import until 1991, when they were overtaken by Lexus.[29] Since 2000, Lexus has been the number-one-selling luxury car marque in the U.S., holding that title ever since.[30][31]

Since the 1980s, a host of new manufacturers have entered the luxury market to challenge the traditional players.[32] The three major Japanese auto manufacturers, Honda, Toyota, and Nissan, created their respective luxury brands particularly for the US. As a result of voluntary export restraints imposed in 1981, these manufacturers were limited to a number of vehicles they could export. While these companies did somewhat sidestep this by establishing US production facilities for mass market vehicles, their home factories soon begun producing higher-priced cars as they carried a greater profit margin per car. Acura was launched in 1986, while Lexus and Infiniti were unveiled in 1989. By 1992, these three divisions had sales of over US $3.5 billion, using lower prices and innovation to steal market share from both domestic (Cadillac, Lincoln) and the European (Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Audi, BMW and Jaguar) luxury car makers.[33] Hyundai had recently released the Genesis and plans to launch the Equus, hoping to repeat the same strategy of undercutting their established competitors. [32]

The Late-2000s recession was the first time since the Great Depression of the 1930s that the luxury car market suffered considerably, something not seen in previous economic downturns. Many such customers had seen their net worth decline following the collapse in financial markets and real-estate values.[17][34] For instance, some of the steepest dropoffs had come at the high end, including the BMW 7 Series and Rolls Royce Phantom, and Mercedes-Benz had unexpectedly dropped starting price of its all-new 2010 E-Class. The unusually sharp decline in luxury car sales have led observers to believe that there is a fundamental shift and reshaping of the luxury automotive market, with one industry officials suggesting that the marques no longer command the premiums that they used to, and another saying that conspicuous consumption was no longer attractive in poor economic conditions. [32] As well, mainstream brands have been able to offer anemities and devices such as leather, wood, and anti-lock brakes, previously found only on luxury cars, as the costs decline. [32]

However, luxury vehicle sales have not collapsed as much as their non-luxury counterparts.[35][36] Luxury vehicle marques generally benefited from financially healthier dealerships, better leasing and certified pre-owned programs and loyal customers, so sales are expected to rebound more quickly than mass market cars. [17] Others note that there is growing interest in luxury vehicles from emerging markets such as China and Russia. [32] As well, the entry-level luxury segment has been very competitive, and there has been price-overlapping with well-equipped non-luxury cars.[37][38] For instance, in Canada, several luxury manufacturers set sales records in August 2009, due mostly to aggressive incentives on entry-level luxury vehicles.[38][39] In September 2009, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus and Audi all saw their Canadian sales increase by more than 10 per cent compared to a year earlier, despite overall Canadian auto sales being down 3.5 per cent compared to September 2008. The head of Mercedes-Benz Canada suggested that the brand "has been able to attract 'middle-class' consumers even during the recession because of the sense that owning a Mercedes comes with 'membership in a club'." BMW Canada's chief said luxury cars continued to be attractive, "I think due to new product offensives and due to new design and due to the fact that we are the benchmark in all areas when it comes to fuel efficiency... that together stimulates a lot of the market".[40]

See also

Car classification
American English British English Segment[41] Euro NCAP Examples
Microcar Microcar, Bubble car  -  - BMW Isetta, Smart Fortwo
 - City car A-segment Supermini Fiat 500, Daewoo Matiz, Renault Twingo, Toyota iQ
Subcompact car Supermini B-segment Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Accent, Opel Corsa, Renault Clio, VW Polo
Compact car Small family car C-segment Small family car Ford Focus, Opel Astra, Toyota Corolla, VW Golf
Mid-size car Large family car D-segment Large family car Ford Mondeo, Honda Accord, Renault Laguna, VW Passat
Entry-level luxury car Compact executive car Alfa Romeo 159, BMW 3 Series, Lexus IS, Volvo S60
Full-size car Executive car E-segment Executive car Ford Crown Victoria, Holden Commodore, Toyota Crown, Chrysler 300C
Mid-size luxury car Lexus GS, BMW 5 Series, Jaguar XF, Mercedes E-Class
Full-size luxury car Luxury car F-segment  - Audi A8, Jaguar XJ, Maserati Quattroporte, Mercedes S-Class
Sports car Sports car S-segment  - Chevrolet Corvette, Porsche 911, Ferrari 458 Italia, Nissan Z-car
Grand tourer Grand tourer  - Jaguar XK, Ferrari 612 Scaglietti, Maserati GranTurismo
Supercar Supercar  - Bugatti Veyron, Ferrari Enzo, Pagani Zonda
Convertible Convertible  - BMW 6 Series, Mercedes CLK, Volvo C70, VW Eos
Roadster Roadster Roadster sports Audi TT, BMW Z4, Lotus Elise, Porsche Boxster
 - Leisure activity vehicle M-segment Small MPV Ford Tourneo Connect, Peugeot Partner, Škoda Roomster
 - Mini MPV Opel Meriva, Fiat Idea, Kia Venga
Compact minivan Compact MPV, Midi MPV Mazda5, Opel Zafira, Renault Scénic, VW Touran
Minivan Large MPV Large MPV Chrysler Town and Country, Ford Galaxy, Honda Odyssey, Renault Espace
Mini SUV Mini 4x4 J-segment Small Off-Road 4x4 Daihatsu Terios, Mitsubishi Pajero iO, Suzuki Jimny
Compact SUV Compact 4x4 BMW X3, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4
 - Coupé SUV  - Isuzu VehiCROSS, SsangYong Actyon, BMW X6
Mid-size SUV Large 4x4 Large Off-Road 4x4 BMW X5, Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, VW Touareg
Full-size SUV Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Suburban, Range Rover, Toyota Land Cruiser
Mini pickup truck Pick-up  - Pick-up Chevrolet Montana, Fiat Strada, Volkswagen Saveiro
Mid-size pickup truck Chevrolet Colorado, Ford Ranger, Mitsubishi Triton/L200, Nissan Navara
Full-size pickup truck Dodge Ram, Ford F-150, GMC Sierra, Nissan Titan

References

  1. ^ Roe, Fred (1986). Duesenberg - The Pursuit of Perfection. Dalton Watson. ISBN 9780901564375.  
  2. ^ a b c d e Berger, Michael L. (2001). The automobile in American history and culture: a reference guide. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 160. ISBN 9780313245589.  
  3. ^ Alder, Dennis (2007). Speed and Luxury: The Great Cars. MBI Publishing Company. p. 138. ISBN 9780760329603.  
  4. ^ "The Original Luxury Minivan Adds Fresh Ideas for 2008" The Auto Channel News 2007-08-06, retrieved on 2009-09-29.
  5. ^ Mitchell, Jacqueline "Nine Minivans You'll Beg To Drive" Forbes 2008-01-22, retrieved on 2009-09-29.
  6. ^ a b "Consumer Behaviour / Luxury Automobiles" (PDF). J. Anurit, K. Newman, B. Chansarkar. http://www.economicswebinstitute.org/essays/carthai.pdf.  
  7. ^ http://ec.europa.eu/competition/mergers/cases/decisions/m1406_en.pdf
  8. ^ "Merger Decision IV/M.1326 of 06/11/1998" (PDF). http://ec.europa.eu/competition/mergers/cases/decisions/m1326_en.pdf. Retrieved 2009-09-14.  
  9. ^ http://ec.europa.eu/competition/mergers/cases/decisions/m5219_20080925_20310_en.pdf
  10. ^ "Luxury Car Tax" Australian Customs Notice - 2001/58, 1st September 2001, retrieved on 24 May 2008.
  11. ^ Bills Digest No. 159 1998-99, A New Tax System (Luxury Car Tax) Bill 1999, retrieved on 24 May 2008
  12. ^ Car of the Year Russia (Russian)
  13. ^ High-End and Mid-level Luxury Definition
  14. ^ "Lienert, D. (11 May 2007). Safest Cars 2007. Forbes.". http://www.forbes.com/vehicles/2007/05/11/car-safe-vehicle-forbeslife-cx_dl_0514safecars_slide_12.html?thisSpeed=15000. Retrieved 2007-08-15.  
  15. ^ "2010 Buick LaCrosse CXS vs. 2009 Lexus ES 350 Comparison Test and Video on Inside Line". Edmunds.com. 30 August 2009. http://www.edmunds.com/insideline/do/Drives/Comparos/articleId=156106. Retrieved 2009-09-14.  
  16. ^ "BMW » Test Drive: 2009 BMW 328i xDrive". CanadianDriver. 9 September 2009. http://www.canadiandriver.com/2009/09/09/test-drive-2009-bmw-328i-xdrive.htm/2. Retrieved 2009-09-14.  
  17. ^ a b c d "Ten Reasons To Buy A Luxury Car". Forbes.com. 27 February 2009. http://www.forbes.com/2009/02/27/luxury-expensive-cars-lifestyle-vehicles_luxury_cars.html. Retrieved 2009-09-29.  
  18. ^ "Automaker Ratings". Rearwheeldrive.org. http://www.rearwheeldrive.org/rwd/rwdrate.htm. Retrieved 2009-09-29.  
  19. ^ Stewart, Ben. "Comparison Test: Front-Wheel Drive Vs. Rear-Wheel Drive". Popular Mechanics. http://www.popularmechanics.com/automotive/new_cars/1266931.html. Retrieved 2009-09-29.  
  20. ^ U.S. luxury car manufacturers are rethinking rear wheel drive.(Auto Weekend) | Article from The Washington Times | HighBeam Research
  21. ^ "2005 Ford Mustang - Popular Hot Rodding Magazine". Popularhotrodding.com. http://www.popularhotrodding.com/features/0501phr_2005_ford_mustang/index.html. Retrieved 2009-09-29.  
  22. ^ a b Kaus, Mickey (9 May 2003). "Chrysler brings back rear-wheel drive. - By Mickey Kaus - Slate Magazine". Slate.com. http://www.slate.com/id/2082761. Retrieved 2009-09-29.  
  23. ^ a b "2011 Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger to remain rear-wheel drive". Leftlanenews.com. 14 February 2008. http://www.leftlanenews.com/2011-chrysler-300-dodge-charger-to-remain-rear-wheel-drive.html. Retrieved 2009-09-29.  
  24. ^ Author: Spero News. "[Lincoln Town Car wins stay of execution]" Publication: Spero News. Article Date: 9/19/06. Date Retrieved: 9/22/06. [1]
  25. ^ Detnews.com | This article is no longer available online | detnews.com | The Detroit News
  26. ^ John O'Dell (6 May 1999). "Cadillac Apologizes to Lincoln for Inflating Sales Numbers". Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/1999/may/06/business/fi-34467. Retrieved 2009-01-21.  
  27. ^ "Best-Selling Luxury Cars 2005". Forbes.com. http://www.forbes.com/2005/12/09/luxury-cars-sales-cx_dl_1212feat_ls.html. Retrieved 2009-09-29.  
  28. ^ Canada (24 June 2009). "Lincoln measures up to stiff competition". The Globe and Mail. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/auto/lincoln-measures-up-to-stiff-competition/article972593/. Retrieved 2009-09-29.  
  29. ^ "Lexus: The relentless pursuit". Absolutefacts.com. 12 September 2007. http://www.absolutefacts.com/automotive/lexus-relentless-pursuit.htm. Retrieved 2009-09-29.  
  30. ^ Green, Jeff (9 January 2009). "BMW, Mercedes, Lexus Car Sales May Drop to 13-Year Low in U.S.". Bloomberg. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601100&sid=aE7P22QvyOuI. Retrieved 2009-01-11.  
  31. ^ van Loon, Jeremy (2007-05-04). "BMW Luxury Lead Threatened by Lexus, Stagnant Margins." Bloomberg. Retrieved on 2007-05-06.
  32. ^ a b c d e 8:10 a.m. ET. "Luxury car market may never look the same - The Driver's Seat- msnbc.com". MSNBC. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32860931/ns/business-the_drivers_seat/. Retrieved 2009-09-30.  
  33. ^ General Motors - A Corporate Governance Case Study
  34. ^ "Bentley sees signs of revival in luxury car class | Lifestyle". Reuters. 11 September 2009. http://www.reuters.com/article/lifestyleMolt/idUSTRE58A5NI20090911. Retrieved 2009-09-29.  
  35. ^ (AFP) – 2 days ago. "AFP: Drop in Germany luxury car sales eases". Google.com. http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hg7ZPPZIisna-qPbZtGBKr5P0s0g. Retrieved 2009-09-10.  
  36. ^ "Recession not a roadblock for luxury-car sales - Triangle Business Journal:". Bizjournals.com. 28 November 2008. http://www.bizjournals.com/triangle/stories/2008/12/01/focus1.html. Retrieved 2009-09-10.  
  37. ^ "How Mercedes got its groove back". Financialpost.com. 6 June 2009. http://www.financialpost.com/story.html?id=1668551. Retrieved 2009-09-10.  
  38. ^ a b Van, Nicolas (4 June 2009). "Luxury makers smash August sales records in Canada". Ottawacitizen.com. http://www.ottawacitizen.com/business/Luxury+makers+smash+August+sales+records/1971773/story.html. Retrieved 2009-09-10.  
  39. ^ Canada. "Incentives are ‘an expensive way to sell'". The Globe and Mail. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/auto/incentives-are-an-expensive-way-to-sell/article1280912/. Retrieved 2009-09-10.  
  40. ^ Owram, Kristine (9 October 2009). "The Canadian Press: Luxury brands' product, pricing helps them sell more cars despite economy". Google.com. http://www.google.com/hostednews/canadianpress/article/ALeqM5iWIblSq0S_nSCxSAcBwbXUX-FlIw. Retrieved 2009-10-18.  
  41. ^ European Commission classification
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Luxury vehicle is a marketing term for a vehicle that provides luxury — pleasant or desirable features beyond strict necessity—at increased expense (see: definition of luxury).

The term suggests a vehicle with greater equipment, performance, construction precision, comfort, design ingenuity, technological innovation, or features that convey brand image, cachet, status, or prestige—or any other discretionary feature or combination of features.

[[File:|thumb|right|A Duesenberg, "one of the greatest luxury cars"[1] with custom body by Willoughby.]] Automobile manufactures market specific makes and models that are targeted at particular socio-economic classes, and thus "social status came to be associated more with a particular vehicle than ownership of a car per se."[2] Therefore, automakers differentiate among their product lines in "collusion" with the car-buying public.[2] While a high price is the most frequent factor, it is "styling, engineering, and even public opinion which cars had the highest and lowest status associated with them."[2]

Every era in automobile history has had "a group of car marques and models that have been expensive to purchase, due to their alleged superiority of their design and engineering".[2] Aimed at wealthy buyers, such automobiles might be generically be termed luxury cars."[2] This term is also used for unique vehicles produced during "an era when luxury was individualistic consideration, and coachwork could be tailored to an owner like a bespoke suit."[3] Although there is considerable literature about specific marques, there is a lack of systematic and scholarly work that "analyzes the luxury car phenomenon itself."[2]

In contemporary usage, the term may be applied to any vehicle type— including sedan, coupe, hatchback, station wagon, and convertible body styles, as well as to minivans,[4][5] crossovers, or sport utility vehicles and to any size vehicle, from small to large—in any price range.[6]

Though widely used, the term luxury is broad and highly variable. It is a perceptual, conditional and subjective attribute and may be understood differently by different people: "What is a luxury car to some... may be 'ordinary' to others."[6]

Contents

Global references

File:Isotta-Fraschini 8A-Roadster
Italian Isotta-Fraschini Tipo 8A S LeBaron Boattail Roadster was 1930s luxury car.[7]

According to the European Commission, the "luxury vehicle" segment is classified as F-segment. However, the boundaries between the traditional segments are increasingly becoming blurred and diluted as features once exclusive to luxury vehicles become standard equipment on even small cars.[8][9][10]

  • ACRISS is a code system used by many car rental companies in the US for classifying vehicles (but not brands or marques). The system includes Luxury and Premium categories.
  • Australia In Australia, for taxation purposes a luxury car is defined as a passenger car whose value exceeds a certain threshold[11] (see: Luxury Car Tax).[12]
  • Germany: In Germany the term "Upper class" (German: Oberklasse) is used.[citation needed]
  • Russia: Russian markets use the term "representative class vehicle" (Russian: автомобиль представительского класса, also translated as "luxury vehicle").[13]
  • United States Consumer Guide's categorization which sorts luxury vehicles by size acknowledges that there can be considerable price variations within a class; for instance the Lincoln Town Car has a relatively low MSRP (Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price) compared to the BMW 7 Series, Lexus LS, or Mercedes-Benz S-Class.[14]


Luxury Car Segments, according to MSRP
Price $15k — $20k $20k — $30k $30k — $40k $40k — $50k $50k — $60k $60k — $70k $70k — $80k $80k — $90k $90k — $100k $100k or more
$29k$38k $40k $60k
Luxury car manufacturers Entry-level Mid-level High-end Ultra

Luxury market segments

Premium compact segment

The premium compact segment is relatively new, having been initiated by several European brands in the mid-2000s, and constitute the least expensive offerings in their lineups. These cars are targeted at a niche market of young customers who have a more refined taste in their automobiles and the means to pay for them. By offering a smaller, lighter, more fuel-efficient, and less expensive vehicle, this serves to introduce a younger customer to the luxury marque, in hopes of retaining the coveted customer loyalty.This includes the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series, and Mercedes-Benz B-Class.[15][16] [17]

Premium compacts may share components with mass market cars from the marque's parent company (the A3), and/or have less sophisticated platforms compared to upmarket vehicles in the lineup (such as the B-Class). The body style tends to be a hatchback or compact wagon, previously associated with economy cars but regaining popularity in the United States for its afforded utility. The luxury branding and style, high-quality interior materials, wide range of convenience features, and performance powertrains are key to distinguishing them from mass market equivalents (one mistake made by the Cadillac Cimarron) and making these appeal to consumers.[17] [18][19]

The classification varies, for instance Consumer Guide Automotive in the US considers the Audi A3 and A4 as part of the premium compact segment due to similar size and MSRP, though these are known in Europe as a small family car and a compact executive car, respectively.[20]

Entry-level luxury/compact executive cars

The entry-level luxury category is also known as the compact executive car in Britain and (Mittelklasse in German). In the US, this segment mostly includes the bottom vehicles in the line-up of luxury brands as well as the top-of-the-line models of some non-luxury brands.[20]

Compact executive cars tend to have complex powertrain and mechanical layouts, resulting in increased cost and reduced interior passenger and trunk space, compared to mass market compact cars. However, material and building quality is higher, there are exclusive features not found on mass market cars, there is better handling and performance, and the nameplate itself is part of the value proposition.[14]

Compact executive cars include the Volvo S60, BMW 3 Series, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class which particularly emphasize sporty handling. Other vehicles such as the Lexus ES and Acura TL are also considered entry-level luxury as well, though they do not fall under European luxury classifications as they are larger and not sold there, indeed these began as badge-engineered versions of the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, respectively.[21][22][23][24]

Recently, the entry-level luxury has been very competitive, and there has been price-overlapping with well-equipped non-luxury cars.[25][26] The bestselling vehicles of the marque are frequently compact executive cars, such as the BMW 3 Series that makes up 40% of the vehicles that BMW sells worldwide.[27][28]

Mid-luxury/executive cars

The mid-luxury segment are commonly referred to as executive cars in Britain, Obere Mittelklasse in German, and Grandes Routières in French. Examples include the Volvo S80, BMW 5 Series, Jaguar XJ and Mercedes-Benz E-Class [29]

Although having similar dimensions to mid-size cars and large family cars, executive cars have lower sales volumes and higher development costs (for better performance and amenities), thus executive cars are usually positioned as premium vehicles, as base trims with less equipment and smaller engines are not sold in U.S. and Canadian markets.[30] Also due to the problem of steep depreciation, especially concerning cars from less prestigious brands, most executive cars are produced by marques that specialize in larger/more expensive vehicles.

Vehicles in this segment include the mid-range models of several luxury car manufacturers.[31] There are also some flagship sedans in this segment, such as the Acura RL and Infiniti M37/56. Executive cars such as the BMW 5 Series are crucial to a luxury automaker's bottom line, and although not the highest-selling model, they generate a significant amount of profits due to the lucrative technology options.[28]

High-end luxury/full-size luxury cars

Also known as full-size luxury cars, grand saloons, or premium large cars, while "Oberklasse" is used in Germany. Many of these are the marque's showcases for the newest automotive technology.[32] Several nameplates also offer long-wheelbase versions that offer additional rear legroom and anemities.[33] Full-size luxury cars sold in Canada and the U.S. typically have mid-displacement V8 engines, though recently some marques have offered a V6 but without much success.[34][35]

Vehicles in this category include some of the models from the flagship lines of luxury car brands. Examples include the Cadillac STS, Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, and Mercedes-Benz S-Class.[14][29]

Ultra-luxury cars

File:Maybach 62
Maybach 62, an ultra-luxury Mercedes-Benz automobile.

R.L. Polk and Company, a global automotive information and marketing firm that provides solutions to automotive and related industries, has defined the term "super luxury" segment for luxury cars costing more than $100,000 USD. This bracket includes the entire lineup of Rolls Royce, Bentley, Aston Martin, Maybach, and Maserati. The top-performing 12-cylinder variants of flagship cars from Audi, BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz are often included here.[35][36][37]

There are ultra-high performance cars from "exotic brands" that also exceed the $100,000 USD mark, but would not be necessarily be categorized as luxury automobiles, such as the offerings from Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche.[36]

Luxury SUV/Crossover

Compared to the other classes of luxury vehicles, the luxury SUV/crossover segment is relatively recent. SUVs from non-luxury brands had experienced a massive surge in popularity in the late 1990s and early 2000s, causing luxury marques to follow suite.

SUVs from the luxury marques grew at almost 40 percent to more than 430,000 vehicles, excluding SUV-only brands like Hummer and Land Rover, while luxury car sales in the US during 2003 suffered a 1% decline, and non-luxury SUV sales were flat. By 2004, 30 percent of major luxury brands' U.S. sales are now SUVs. Luxury brands in particular led the development of crossover SUVs (as opposed to body-on-frame SUVs), making it one of the fastest growing segments in the market, as the forecast for 2002 was approximately 240,000 vehicles and that could double by 2006.[38] Resarch data showed luxury SUV buyers are compared those vehicles to SUVs of mass market brands, and not shopping around luxury cars, thus the SUV is becoming the key to bringing new customers to the luxury dealerships. [39]

Certain luxury SUVs use body-on-frame underpinnings, often being badge-engineered versions of their non-luxury counterparts, and retaining the rugged off-road and towing capabilities. Examples include the Lexus LX and Lincoln Navigator, which are the premium versions of the Toyota Land Cruiser and Ford Expedition, respectively.[40]

Other luxury SUVs are crossovers using unibody construction, often sharing the platform with compact executive and executive cars, giving them better handling and ride comfort. For instance, the Infiniti FX is based upon the Nissan FM platform which also underpins other Infiniti cars. Audi and BMW developed crossovers to compete in the SUV segment as they did not have an existing body-on-frame vehicle in their lineup.[38][41] The Lexus RX was the earliest luxury crossover on the market, and it has since been the best-selling luxury vehicle in the US, so it has inspired similar competitors from rival marques.[42] While early luxury crossovers released in the late 1990s have resembled traditional boxy SUVs, recent offerings have prioritized sportiness over utility — such as the Infiniti FX and BMW X6.[43][44][45]

Characteristics

File:Hispano-Suiza
Spanish luxury car brand was Hispano-Suiza, here is twelve cylinder J12.

Luxury cars tend to offer a higher degree of comfort than their mainstream counterparts, common amenities include genuine leather upholstery and polished "woodgrain-look" dashboards.[29] Compared to mainstream vehicles, luxury cars have traditionally emphasized comfort and safety.[46] Luxury vehicles are also a status symbol for conspicuous consumption. [47]

Contemporary luxury cars also offer higher performance and better handling, which is often known as sport luxury.[48][49] However in Europe, where large-displacement engines are often heavily taxed and many luxury buyers shy away from conspicuous consumption, brands offer buyers the option of removing exterior engine-identifying badges.[34]

Forbes noted that the reputation of luxury marques enables them to continually introduce many new safety technologies and comfort amenities, such as anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control and DVD entertainment systems, before they trickle down to mass market cars. Numerous "smart car" features are largely only found on luxury cars as of 2009. [47]

The rear-wheel drive with longitudinal engines (FR) is a common layout of luxury cars. European marques like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Jaguar have almost never adopted front-wheel drive and retained a lineup mostly or entirely made up of FR cars. Japanese brands such as Lexus and Infiniti also have predominantly FR lineups. The FR layout, while more expensive than the FF, has been retained by these luxury manufacturers as it allows for higher performance engines (particularly the straight-6, V8, and other engine configurations with more cylinders), better handling, and a smoother ride. [34] [50] [51][52]

American manufacturers also largely followed the FR for their luxury brands (as well as their mass-market cars of the time). However, due to the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 and the 1979 fuel crises, began eliminating their FR platforms in favor of the more economical front wheel drive transverse engine layout (FF). Chrysler went 100% FF by 1990 and GM's Cadillac and Buick brands for the US were entirely FF by 1997. One of the few notable holdouts was Ford's Lincoln Town Car and Lincoln LS.[53]

In the 21th century, as part of the revamp of its design and image,[54] Cadillac did return most of its lineup (sedans, roadsters, crossovers and SUVs) to have rear- and all-wheel-drive, the only exceptions being the front-wheel drive Cadillac BLS (which is not sold in North America)[55] and the Cadillac DTS. Chrysler returned its full-size cars to this layout with the Chrysler 300.[56][57] Ford's Lincoln retained the longtime FR platform for the Town Car, intended for use as a limousine and chauffeured car,[58] but newer offerings such as the MKZ and MKS will use newer FF platforms shared with mainstream Ford vehicles, with all-wheel drive as an option.[59]

History and sales

File:1933 Rolls-Royce Phantom II
Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental is a British luxury car.

In the United States luxury market, Cadillac and Lincoln had been long the best-selling and second best-selling luxury brands until 1998, when they had been overtaken by Japanese and German brands.[60] Since the 2000s, with the Cadillac CTS, the marque has seen a resurgence in sales and brand value.[61] Ford's Lincoln, which had seen sales fall as a result of an aging lineup, has attempted to return that luxury marque to competitiveness, by releasing new models such as the Lincoln MKS, as well as divesting itself of its other Premier Automotive Group brands.[62] Mercedes-Benz and BMW were the top-selling luxury import until 1991, when they were overtaken by Lexus.[63] Since 2000, Lexus has been the number-one-selling luxury car marque in the U.S., holding that title ever since.[64][65]

Since the 1980s, a host of new manufacturers have entered the luxury market to challenge the traditional players.[66] The three major Japanese auto manufacturers, Honda, Toyota, and Nissan, created their respective luxury brands particularly for the US. As a result of voluntary export restraints imposed in 1981, these manufacturers were limited to a number of vehicles they could export. While these companies did somewhat sidestep this by establishing US production facilities for mass market vehicles, their home factories soon begun producing higher-priced cars as they carried a greater profit margin per car. Acura was launched in 1986, while Lexus and Infiniti were unveiled in 1989. By 1992, these three divisions had sales of over US $3.5 billion, using lower prices and innovation to steal market share from both domestic (Cadillac, Lincoln) and the European (Mercedes, Volvo, BMW, and Jaguar) luxury car makers.[67] Hyundai had recently released the Genesis and plans to launch the Equus, hoping to repeat the same strategy of undercutting their established competitors. [66]

The Late-2000s recession was the first time since the Great Depression of the 1930s that the luxury car market suffered considerably, something not seen in previous economic downturns. Many such customers had seen their net worth decline following the collapse in financial markets and real-estate values.[47][68] For instance, some of the steepest dropoffs had come at the high end, including the BMW 7 Series and Rolls Royce Phantom, and Mercedes-Benz had unexpectedly dropped starting price of its all-new 2010 E-Class. The unusually sharp decline in luxury car sales have led observers to believe that there is a fundamental shift and reshaping of the luxury automotive market, with one industry official suggesting that the marques no longer command the premiums that they used to, and another saying that conspicuous consumption was no longer attractive in poor economic conditions. [66] Additionally, mainstream brands have been able to offer amenities and devices such as leather, wood, and anti-lock brakes, previously found only on luxury cars, as the costs decline. [66]

However, luxury vehicle sales have not collapsed as much as their non-luxury counterparts.[69][70] Luxury vehicle marques generally benefited from financially healthier dealerships, better leasing and certified pre-owned programs and loyal customers, so sales are expected to rebound more quickly than mass market cars. [47] Others note that there is growing interest in luxury vehicles from emerging markets such as China and Russia. [66] Also, the entry-level luxury segment has been very competitive, and there has been price-overlapping with well-equipped non-luxury cars.[26][71] For instance, in Canada, several luxury manufacturers set sales records in August 2009, due mostly to aggressive incentives on entry-level luxury vehicles.[26][72] In September 2009, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus and Audi all saw their Canadian sales increase by more than 10 per cent compared to a year earlier, despite overall Canadian auto sales being down 3.5 per cent compared to September 2008. The head of Mercedes-Benz Canada suggested that the brand "has been able to attract 'middle-class' consumers even during the recession because of the sense that owning a Mercedes comes with 'membership in a club'." BMW Canada's chief said luxury cars continued to be attractive, "I think due to new product offensives and due to new design and due to the fact that we are the benchmark in all areas when it comes to fuel efficiency... that together stimulates a lot of the market".[73] BMW has managed to remain profitable in 2009 while other competitors were posting losses, by scaling down production quickly to avoid cash burn through bloated inventories. [74]

Since March 2010, BMW is currently the best-selling luxury vehicle manufacturer by sales, ahead of rivals Audi AG (NSU.XE) and Daimler AG's (DAI.XE) Mercedes-Benz marque. [74][75]

See also

Car classification
American EnglishBritish EnglishEuro Car Segment[76]Euro NCAP 1997 - 2009Euro NCAP[77]Examples
MicrocarMicrocar, Bubble carA-segment mini carsSuperminiPassenger carIsetta, Smart Fortwo
Subcompact carCity carFiat 500, Daewoo Matiz, Peugeot 107, Toyota iQ
SuperminiB-segment small carsFord Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo, Ford Figo, Opel Corsa, Peugeot 207
Compact carSmall family carC-segment medium carsSmall family carFord Focus, Opel Astra, Toyota Auris, Volkswagen Golf, Chevrolet Cobalt
Mid-size carLarge family carD-segment large carsLarge family carFord Mondeo, Opel Insignia, Volkswagen Passat, Chevrolet Malibu
Entry-level luxury carCompact executive carAlfa Romeo 159, BMW 3 Series, Lexus IS, Volvo S60, Audi A4, Cadillac CTS
Full-size carExecutive carE-segment executive carsExecutive carFord Crown Victoria, Holden Commodore, Toyota Crown, Chrysler 300C,Honda Accord, Chevrolet Impala
Mid-size luxury carLexus GS, BMW 5 Series, Jaguar XF, Audi A6, Volvo S80, Cadillac CTS
Full-size luxury carLuxury carF-segment luxury cars -Audi A8, Jaguar XJ, Maserati Quattroporte, Mercedes S-Class, Cadillac DTS
Sports carSports carS-segment sport coupes -Chevrolet Corvette, Porsche 911, Ferrari 458 Italia, Nissan Z-car
Grand tourerGrand tourer -Jaguar XK, Ferrari 612 Scaglietti, Maserati GranTurismo
SupercarSupercar -Bugatti Veyron, Ferrari Enzo, Pagani Zonda
ConvertibleConvertible -BMW 6 Series, Mercedes CLK, Volvo C70, Volkswagen Eos, Chevrolet Camaro
RoadsterRoadsterRoadster sportsRoadsterAudi TT, Honda S2000, Lotus Elise, Mazda MX-5, Porsche Boxster,
 -Leisure activity vehicleM-segment multi purpose carsSmall MPVMPVFord Tourneo Connect, Peugeot Partner, Škoda Roomster
 -Mini MPV Opel Meriva, Fiat Idea, Citroen C3 Picasso
Compact minivanCompact MPV, Midi MPVMazda5, Opel Zafira, Ford C-Max, Volkswagen Touran, Peugeot 5008
MinivanLarge MPVLarge MPV Chrysler Town and Country, Ford Galaxy, Honda Odyssey, Peugeot 807
Mini SUVMini 4x4J-segment sport utility cars (including off-road vehicles)Small Off-Road 4x4Off-roaderDaihatsu Terios, Mitsubishi Pajero iO, Suzuki Jimny, Jeep Wrangler
Compact SUVCompact 4x4 BMW X3, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Chevy Equinox, Jeep Liberty
 -Coupé SUV -Isuzu VehiCROSS, SsangYong Actyon, BMW X6
Mid-size SUVLarge 4x4Large Off-Road 4x4 Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Volkswagen Touareg, Chevrolet Tahoe
Full-size SUV Cadillac Escalade EXT, Chevrolet Suburban, Range Rover, Toyota Land Cruiser, Jeep Commander
Mini pickup truckPick-up -Pick-upPickup Chevrolet Montana, Fiat Strada, Volkswagen Saveiro
Mid-size pickup truck Chevrolet Colorado, Ford Ranger, Mitsubishi Triton/L200, Nissan Navara
Full-size pickup truck Dodge Ram, Ford F-150, GMC Sierra, Nissan Titan, Toyota Tundra
Full-size Heavy Duty pickup truck Chevrolet Silverado

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