Audi, Cadillac, Lexus buyer demographics exhibit most changes

(May 2010) Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Cadillac and Lexus gained the most market share in the United States among all premium brands during the first four months of 2010 vs. the same period in 2009.

Mercedes was the best-selling premium brand, followed by Lexus, based on total sales (retail and fleet) data in the J.D. Power and Associates Sales Report. These four premium brands also exhibited interesting differences in their buyer demographics in the first four months, based on Power Information Network (PIN) retail transaction data from J.D. Power and Associates. A few differences are highlighted:

Audi captures most young buyers

Nearly one-fourth (23.8 percent) of Audi customers — the largest percentage among the four premium brands — were in the 16-35 year-old age range. That was higher than the percentage of young buyers for the industry, which remained stable at slightly more than 21 percent in the first 4 months of both years.

Although the average age of a Cadillac buyer was 58 years, the brand increased its base of buyers below the age of 56 this year more than the other three premium brands. Nearly one-half (44.4 perent ) of buyers were younger than 56 — up from 41.4 percent a year ago.

Lexus, with the second-oldest customer (age 53, on average) among the 4 brands, also increased its percentage of buyers younger than 56 years old this year — 56.8 percent vs. 54.5 percent  a year ago.

Audi female buyer share increases most

In addition to capturing the highest percentage of young buyers among these four premium brands, Audi also increased its female buyer base this year — to 34.2 percent  from 33.2 percent a year ago.

Cadillac gained the most female buyers on a percentage basis in the first four months of 2010 — 35.0 percent vs. 32.4 percent in the same period of 2009.

Lexus garnered the largest share of female buyers among the four premium brands — 41.0percent — but that percentage was slightly lower than last year’s 42.4 percent.
Mercedes-Benz’ percentage of female buyers has remained nearly the same in both years—at slightly more than one-third.

Lexus, Cadillac shore up loyal customers

Lexus had the highest percentage of trade-ins from the same manufacturer and from the same brand among all four premium brands. Nearly two-thirds of Lexus purchases with a trade-in were Toyota products (64.6 percent), up more than 9 points from 55.1 percent last year. In addition, the percentage of same-brand trade-ins was the highest among all four nameplates — increasing more than 8 points to 54.4 percent from 46.0 percent last year.

Cadillac had the second-highest percentage of trade-ins from the same manufacturer (General Motors), although the percentage declined by 8.8 points to 60.6 percent from 69.4 percent a year ago. On a positive note, however, the average age of a trade-in for a Cadillac transaction this year was 4.8 years — the lowest among all four premium brands. Audi trade-in vehicles were the oldest — averaging 5.4 years, up from 5.1 a year ago.

Lexus average transaction price rises most

The average transaction price (less customer cash rebate) for a Mercedes-Benz model this year ($54,062) was the highest among the four premium brands reviewed, while Audi’s average transaction price ($44,415) was the lowest.

Three of the four premium brands posted higher average transaction prices this year than in the same 4 months of 2009. Only Cadillac experienced a slight decline in its average price—down $752 to an average of $46,526 this year.

Lexus posted the largest increase in average transaction price from last year. The average Lexus deal in the first 4 months of 2010 was $44,527, up $3,201, or 7.75 percent higher than a year ago.

Implications: Younger buyers attracted to these premium brands appear to be drawn to specific models. Buyers under 35 purchasing or leasing an Audi are more likely to select models such as the A4/S4 (29.1 percent) or the A5/S5 (24.7 percent). In addition, Audi had a large proportion of their vehicles sold with turbo aspiration (55.9 percent) in the first four months of 2010, which is up from 51.8 percent during the same period last year.

In contrast, turbo-aspirated vehicles are accounting for only 5.5 percent of sales across all nameplates this year so far. Audi’s younger buyers appear to be attracted to their turbo vehicles (26.2 percent) slightly more than normally aspirated ones (22.4 percent).

The Cadillac Ecalade appeals to buyers under age 56, with 72 percent of buyers between the ages of 16 and 55 years old. In addition, Cadillac’s all-new SRX also appears to be attracting significantly younger buyers, with 46.4 percent under age 55 from January through April 2010, compared with 32.4 percent during the same time frame in 2009 — a 43.2 percent drop in buyer age.

— Grace Hamulic, PIN production manager at J.D. Power and Associates