Luxury-Car Sales In Steep Decline As Buyers Wait
In past economic slumps, luxury-car makers have withstood the downturn better than their mass-market counterparts. Not so this year.
Sales for the U.S. luxury-car market, which includes everything from a Lexus to a Lamborghini, fell 30% last month from a year earlier -- on par with the 31.9% decline for the overall market, according to Autodata Corp., a market research firm.
Auto makers report November's figures on Tuesday and that picture doesn't look any prettier. Credit Suisse projects the overall car market will show a decline of 36% -- a 'November slaughter,' in the words of Credit Suisse analyst Christopher Ceras.
Among luxury cars, 'we suspect that November was just as bad as October because people on Wall Street and in the banks are still losing their jobs,' said Rebecca Lindland, an analyst with IHS Global Insight, a research firm in Lexington, Mass.
Researchers at Morgan Stanley expect the fall in demand for premium cars -- the higher end of the luxury market -- will get 'significantly worse' in coming months.
J.D. Power estimates that BMW AG sales will show a decline of more than 20% for November and that sales for Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz unit will fall more than 40%.
That trend spells bad news for auto makers who have been able to rely on the fat profit margins of luxury brands to offset plunging sales of mass-market vehicles with razor-thin margins.
On top of rising foreclosures, a plunging stock market and thousands of pink slips on Wall Street, luxury-car makers say their customers also don't want their subordinates to see them driving a new car.
'People don't want to look like they have money now,' said Mark Templin, group vice president of Toyota Motor Corp.'s North American Lexus division.
Lexus sales have started to pick up in November, said Sean Lyons, a Northeastern regional manager for Lexus. But that is partly because Lexus started its annual December sale early, on Nov. 21.
He said the region from Portland, Maine, to Washington was running only 10 vehicles lower than last November.
October was especially hard for the top-end luxury vehicles. Porsche AG's sales fell by half last month from a year earlier, to 1,427 vehicles.
Bentley's sales fell 62% to 146, while Maserati's sales declined 29% to 157.
The weak luxury-car market isn't isolated to North America as economies from Japan to Germany are in or near recession. Stuart McCullough, board member for sales and marketing at Bentley Motors, says sales in the Middle East and China are stable but are sinking just about everywhere else.
'Even the oligarchs in Russia don't feel rich anymore,' he said. 'There aren't many bright spots in the world right now.'
Sales rose 10-fold from 2004 to last year. But Bentley, the superluxury brand of Volkswagen AG, expects sales to drop to 5,000 vehicles next year from 10,000 this year.
In response, the company cut one of the two shifts at its plant in Crewe, England. That said, Bentley sold a $230,000 Continental Flying Spur sedan on the first press day of the Los Angeles auto show last week.
Incentive spending -- such as zero-percent financing and cash rebates -- is on the rise, more than doubling for vehicles priced over $60,000, according to Edmunds.com. The average incentive spending on a premium car last month was about $8,100, compared with $3,430 a year earlier.
But unlike past downturns, consumers aren't responding to traditional marketing devices like increased incentives, lease deals or beefed-up advertising, said BMW spokesman Tom Kowelski. 'This is the most difficult period we've experienced in North America,' Mr. Kowelski said. BMW's U.S. sales fell 14% last month to 20,203 vehicles.
汽车制造商周二公布了11月份的销售情况，从数字看，情况并无任何好转。瑞士信贷(Credit Suisse)预计汽车市场总体将出现36%的下滑，用瑞士信贷分析师塞拉斯(Christopher Ceras)的话来说，简直就像发生了“11月大屠杀”。
马萨诸塞研究公司IHS Global Insight分析师林德兰(Rebecca Lindland)说，对于豪华车品牌，我们怀疑11月份的情况会跟10月份一样糟，因为华尔街和银行界的人正在失去工作。
J.D. Power预计，宝马(BMW AG) 11月份的销售将下降20%以上，戴姆勒克莱斯勒(Daimler AG)旗下的奔驰(Mercedes-Benz)子公司销售量降幅将超过40%。
广告丰田汽车(Toyota Motor Corp.)的北美雷克萨斯分部集团副总裁坦普林(Mark Templin)说，人们现在不希望显出很有钱的样子。
从日本到德国，很多国家经济已经出现或者濒临衰退，因此豪华车市场疲软并非限于北美市场。宾利(Bentley Motors)董事会负责销售和市场营销的董事麦克卡洛(Stuart McCullough)说，中东和中国市场销售稳定，但其他市场几乎都在下滑。
针对这一趋势，宾利将其在英格兰克鲁的工厂两个生产班次减掉了一个。虽说如此，宾利上周在洛杉矶车展首个媒体接待日就售出了一辆23万美元的Continental Flying Spur。