Lexus still on top, but BMW, Mercedes gain

(January 19, 2011) SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Lexus sold more luxury cars in the U.S. in 2010 than any other brand, maintaining its place at the top of the luxury market for an eighth consecutive year, according to sales data compiled by

But European competitors BMW and Mercedes closed the gap by enough last year that both are poised to make a run at the top spot in 2011.

"With fewer than 10,000 sales separating the top two brands, last year's competition returned to the neck-and-neck race we saw between Lexus and BMW in 2008 before the economy turned sour," said Bill Visnic, senior editor for Edmunds' "The close finish suggests that the U.S. luxury sales crown this year is very much up for grabs."

Toyota-owned Lexus sold almost 230,000 cars last year, out-pacing both BMW (220,000) and Mercedes-Benz (216,000). As usual, Lexus' ES sedan led the brand's sales with 48,652 units — or 21% of all Lexuses sold — in 2010. The Lexus HS hybrid, meanwhile, was the brand's fastest growing model last year with a 10.2% increase over 2009.

ES is top-selling Lexus

BMW's 3 Series paced the brand's second place showing with 100,910 units sold (+10.9%). Meanwhile, the Mercedes E-Class (60,922 units sold) was not only the brand's top-selling model, but it was also its fastest growing (+41.4%).

A secret to Lexus's 2010 success may lie in its incentive deals. found that while most luxury brands (including BMW and Mercedes) offered fewer discounts last year compared to 2009, Lexus actually increased its incentive offers. Lexus buyers received a discount of 11%, on average, off their new cars, the highest rate offered by the brand in the last decade.

Cadillac was the top domestic brand on last year's list and earned the title of fastest growing luxury brand overall in 2010, even as it placed a distant fourth with 147,000 cars sold. The GM division's new SRX crossover became the brand's best-selling model with 51,094 sales, dethroning the CTS. Lincoln, America's only other domestic car division, placed well behind Cadillac with just under 86,000 sales in 2010.

2010 was also a milestone year for Volkswagen's Audi, which cracked six figures in U.S. sales for the first time ever. Sales of the growing German brand climbed to almost 102,000 units, with the popular Audi A4 model representing 36% of all Audis purchased.

Honda's Acura line also reinforced its solid market share, placing between Cadillac and Nissan's Infiniti with 133,606 sales in 2010. This was led by an unlikely candidate in its luxury division: the Acura MDX crossover.

"For a brand that built its reputation on the values of light and sensibly-sized cars, the bulky MDX has asserted itself as Acura's best-selling model," said Visnic.

A full review of last year's luxury auto sales can be found at Edmunds'

2010 Luxury Car sales - 2.jpg