• Jun 30, 2009
2010 BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo - Click above for high-res image gallery

Life is hard at the top, whether that precipice happens to be at the zenith of the overall sales chart or of a specific market niche, such as Lexus' position as the best-selling luxury automaker in the United States. Toyota's posh brand has held the top spot since the year 2000, with BMW perpetually trailing in second place. Could 2009 finally be the year that BMW breaks through to number one?

So far this year, Automotive News is reporting that BMW's 76,819 total sales in the States puts the German brand slightly ahead of Lexus, which has moved a total of 73,186 units thus far in '09. Both brands are down somewhat from 2008, though BMW's 30.5 fall. Neither automaker is interested in boasting of its successes in this market, though BMW will gladly accept the extra market share. Speaking to Automotive News, Jan Ehlen, a spokesman for BMW of North America, said:
This year's emphasis is on maintaining our market share and even growing our share a bit. If this results in remaining in the top spot of the premium market, that would be a nice bonus.


[Source: Automotive News]


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  • 67 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      Yeah...there's this thing called the Lexus RX which is one of the best selling luxury SUVs of all time. It just got redesigned sold over 7000 units in May (which is DOWN from last year) which is double the sales of the X3, X5 and X6 combined.

      Lexus' problem is the sedan lineup which can't compete with the 3 and 5 series. But I think the new IS vert and RX will definitely keep lexus #1.
        • 5 Years Ago
        But that's fine. The ES is nowhere near the dynamics of a 3 Series yet it is the sales king of its segment. The same goes for the RX. If anything, I think that because the IS breaks the traditional cushy luxury mold of Lexus, it hasn't been selling as well as it should be (for all its merits).
      • 5 Years Ago
      maybe it's just me, but I've test drove a few BMW's and I think they are a stiff and a very uncomfortable ride, sure they are the most fun to drive, but luxury wise they don't come close.
        • 5 Years Ago
        That's always been BMW's signature element...the harsh ride that provides full road feedback.

        If you want to drive a mattress and fall asleep, get a Lexus.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Lot's of people buy Lexus or Acura because they got sick of the harsh ride in a bimmer. Personally I like it but I can see how it would annoy. You fell every seem in the road, everyone.
        • 5 Years Ago
        A lot of the models on dealer lots are specced to look good - not necessarily the best combo for a good drive.

        Sport packages and optional rims look awesome, but are comfort killers... I've found that base 3s, (or 5s) on smaller rims might look less cool, but ride quite nicely.

        Unfortunately, most (all?) new BMWs are running runflats, and they ruin the ride even if u have ballon sidewalls.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @ Auari,

        I agree. I think recently Mercedes seems to consistently find that perfect middle ground between responsive handling and cushy ride. BMWs tend to be sprung a bit stiff, Lexus' are sprung too soft. You either emulate Lexus (Hyundai/Lincoln) or you emulate BMW (Audi/Infiniti/Acura/Cadillac).
        • 5 Years Ago
        I think one of the problems in a down economy is that people just keep their old cars longer, and Lexuses tend to stay pretty much the same so there isn't as much penalty for not just keeping an older car. I've ridden in a 10 year old LS and it didn't have a single rattle and was actually quieter than my much newer car =(

        Anyways I also think Toyota cannibalized a whole bunch of Lexus RX sales with the Venza, and the RX is their best seller so it probably hurt their Lexus numbers.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Hmm I find this interesting. Generally, I prefer BMW's to their Lexus counterparts (but their are exceptions). I've always thought that Lexus' cushy ride-above-all-else philosophy was the one best suited to luxury mass market appeal.

      But then again, when does the average consumer really care about how their car drives? BMW has a level of brand cachet that I don't think even Lexus can top. Still, I wonder what the exact cause for BMW's little bump in market share is attributable too.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Look at the sort of people who buy Lexuses and BMWs.
        Typically, people who drive BMWs care more about their car than a Lexus buyer. This is evidenced in a 3-series to ES comparison.
        The median household income a 3-series buyer is 100,000. The median household income for an ES buyer is ~125,000. The cars cost about the same, yes?
        You would think as consumer wealth decreases, those with Lexuses or those who are prone to buying Lexuses, would defer the purchase or purchase a different car because they don't care as much about their car.
        A BMW appeals to someone who cares more about their car. You can ascribe this to any number of things: cachet, driving dynamics, et. al. The BMW buyer - the buyer concerned with their car - will probably not be as likely as a lexus buyer to defer the purchase. OR the BMW buyer will forgo more to afford their car.

        Keep in mind, BMW has a more inexpensive car, the 1-series, and the M-division is selling a lot of cars. I think it's because people who would have previously bought some Porshce/Lamborghotti want a better value and less expensive car. You see this trend with AMG mercedes as well.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Tyler

        The problem is most BMW buyers aren't actually buyers and are actually leasers, and I doubt that anyone looking at an ES is going to cross shop it with a 3 series or vice versa.
        • 5 Years Ago
        In America people associate luxury with a soft, comfortable ride. If you're actually rich, you're riding in the back, not in the drivers seat.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Hmm.....Hyundai was successful when they make everyone think that Lexus and Toyota are no diferrent
      • 5 Years Ago
      I've never considered any car made in Japan to be "Luxury". They dont even call it a Lexus there, just a Toyota because thats all it is! If you want Luxury then you need to look to Germany or England for most of your cars! Lexus is luxury for kids!
        • 5 Years Ago
        If you see any kids buying and driving LS460's,LX570's and LS600H's, let me know K? thanks
        • 5 Years Ago
        You need to do some research before you post your comm. They sales Lexus in japan.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Since 2005 Lexus have been sold in Japan as Lexus', beginning with the IS, SC and GS models. They were not badged Toyotas. They became profitable in 2007 in Japan. Lexus has done quite well not only here but in Japan and Russia. The only place they've struggled is in Europe, however, with the new IS220d and congestion charge in London that includes incentives for hybrids (Lexus Europe sells mainly diesels and gasoline vehicles), they're poised to do quite well.

        Please check your facts.
        • 5 Years Ago
        That's a pretty dumb statement.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I don't think so. I went to Japanese Lexus website. How comes people don't call it Lexus? Doesn't make sense.
      • 5 Years Ago
      BMW's are sporty luxury, while Lexus are plush luxury.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I love BMWs, but I firmly believe Lexus provides a better long-term ownership experience based on the varied experiences friends have recounted with their BMWs. From failed AC compressors on year-old 335s, to lifter failure on a gently run E39 M5 (less than 83,000 miles when it was finally sold) I'm a bit wary of the brand.

      Lexus on the other hand is still playing catch up to Germany in overall design execution, or the driving experience - but I hear nothing but good things from owners. Combine that with a less pretentious sales experience, to solid durability Lexus makes a compelling case for itself.

      in 20 years, when I get too curmudgeonly to enjoy stiff suspensions and 10/10s performance, Lexus will be at the top of my shopping list- that is, if BMW doesnt get their reliability on par with the Japanese.

      Within that time span however, its more likely that I will buy an M3 than an ISF (or whatever succeeds it)
        • 5 Years Ago
        @audi_arena

        The whole "Lexus is for people who don't like cars" is such an over played hypocritical generalization at this point, as if every owner of a German make loves their car so much. If anything the German makes milk the brand cachet hype way more so than Lexus therefore attracting more poser types who don't have a clue about cars but have the cash and want to flaunt it and therefore attracting just as many if not more "people who don't like cars".
        • 5 Years Ago
        ^Right on. Lexus builds a better car for the person who doesn't like cars. It's a better ownership experience for americans because we don't have to think about anything. We don't have to worry about repairs, we don't have to worry about the sounds outside our car or even the potholes in the road that we are driving on because it isolates us from everything.

        I can't think of a more vanilla, boring way to approach car building, and I think it speaks volumes about our culture that we would rather isolate ourselfs from everything potentially negative rather than experiencing all of our surroundings. In a way it seems like we are miserable and scarred.

        Personally, I will take the occasional bumps, squeaks and yes, small repair issues for my car simply because of the way I feel when I drive it. Considering the amound of time that we spend driving, the pure bliss that I experience while running through the gears through a curvy backroad far outweighs the nussances of a stiff ride, road noise and occasional repair.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I totally agree. The same applies to Audis and Mercedes-Benzes. M-Bs of 1998-2005ish were particularly bad with reliability. One of my uncles has a 1st-generation ML430. It squeaks and rattles like crazy, the surfaces are extremely hard and grainy, many electronic (e.g. navigation, sunroof controller) and mechanical components (engine, etc.) failed in some way (the sunrooof broke when closing in a light rain); furthermore, the service at his dealer is absolutely horrendous as the people there simply write it off and say that it's his problem. He has several friends who own M-Bs of similar vintage and they all have had most of the same problems.
        This is why I would not buy any German luxury car other the A4, 3 Series, or S-Class. Those are the only models that have held up pretty well.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Lexus has become more SUV oriented and let the car side slide. Their most popular vehicles, the ES and RX are based on the Camry platform and are uninspired at best. They are competent, but hardly enthusiast oriented. The GS is long in the tooth and no longer competitive. The IS is too small to compete with the 3 series and Infiniti G. The IS also is a car aimed at enthusiasts, from a company rightly regarded for soft luxury. The newest car in the lineup, the LS, is very competitive, but in a very small market. The GX and LX have their fans but aren't big sellers.

      BMW has expanded their car and SUV lines in the last few years and kept their product fresh. The 5 series is the oldest car line and will be replaced in the next year. BMW has had their share of misses, but by continuing to field new innovative product they simply aren't down as much in a bad market.
      • 5 Years Ago
      @ Mact: Haha. That is pretty funny. I'm pretty sure my C300 only says MB. Well at least your 3 series says GM and not Toyota ;) I'm just not a huge Toyota/Lexus fan...
      • 5 Years Ago
      LOL...it will never happen.
      Americans in mass quantities want comfort and convenience over "the ultimate driving machine". I don't see this changing. BMW has no chance IMHO.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Agree with Johnnie cuz the reason Lexus become number 1 in USA because american love comfy ride, just look at Lincoln, Buick and Caddy and Mercedes just look at the best selling car in USA, a Toyota Camry. Camry is very comfy compare to Altima, Accord and everything in the same class. While in other hand Lexus is NOT the best selling lux car OUTSIDE USA.
        • 5 Years Ago
        In SoCal this is already true. BMW:LEXUS = 3:1. Here in Irvine, everybody and their uncle seems to have a BMW. Hell, even the high school students drive 1 and 3 series. Of course, BMW is the most lease-heavy automaker, so most of these people are probably frontin'.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "Americans in mass quantities want comfort and convenience over "the ultimate driving machine"."

        Just curious, have you read anything pertaining to BMW over the last few years? Or talked to anyone at BMW? Or driven any of their cars? BMW has been focusing on comfort and convenience. That's why the new Z4 is hundreds of pounds heavier and softer, that's why the new M3 no longer aims for the 911 mark like previous generations did. BMW has been very openly making their cars more comfortable and convenient explicitly to increase volume sales, the M3 became a volume seller a long time ago. These figures confirm, rightly so, that their move towards less extreme, less unabashedly driver focused cars, and closer to lexus territory than they've been before, is paying off in terms of volume.
        • 5 Years Ago
        ^Thats absolutely true, Zama; BMW has been abandoning the roots the brought them the popularity that they are enjoying right now (a focus on performance, product, and quality), and instead adopting a more watered down approach focusing on appealing to the masses and value rather than quality.

        Personally, I think this will be thier downfall. I haven't enjoyed a single BMW product in the past two years, and if thier balance sheet is any indication, it seems that thier stellar reputation is begining to fade.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Sure wasn't by looks if they out sell them. BMW design has gotten really awkward as the picture in this article clearly shows, ugly.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Oh god I miss the E39, E34, E38, E46, E32 and E30... I want my elegant BMWs BACK!!
        Waita minnit... they are cheaper now... and i don't really care for the new car owning experience...
        people who buy cars to show off can sod off....
      • 5 Years Ago
      Lexus is definitely the Toyota of the luxury segment. Humble, inoffensive, yet sensbile cars that sell like Hotcakes! I think its good that there's a niche for them, but i think the top spot should be for a much more inspired brand.

      Right now Lexus is a sleeping giant, as evidenced by the more and more boring/ unchanged designs we've seen in the last 7 or 8 years. BMW has every right to take the top spot simply for the fact that they're more daring ambitious; but by that same token that means Audi might one day be on top as well. ;-)
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