Lexus has been the undisputed king of luxury automotive sales in the U.S. for the 21st century. It hasn't even been close. BMW has played second fiddle the entire decade, but through the first eight months of 2009, the German luxury car maker has made some major gains on its Japanese luxury competitor. In fact, through August only 2,293 vehicles separate BMW from becoming the new king of the mountain.
BMW's climb to the top of the sales charts comes during a sales downturn the likes of which hasn't been seen in decades, yet the Bavarian automaker has weathered the storm much better than Lexus. BMW sales are down 33,000 units versus the first eight months of 2008, a 28 percent decline. Lexus is down an amazing 40 percent through eight months, a 40,000 unit decline. BMW owes much of its momentum to the venerable 3-Series, which is down 24 percent on the year yet still handily outselling the Lexus IS and ES. Lexus is staying in the lead on the back of its perennially successful RX crossover, which is down only four percent over the year.
While BMW has plenty to be proud of in a down year, catching Lexus is no sure thing. Lexus actually bested BMW by a substantial 3,600 units in August, proof that Toyota's luxury arm is getting stronger as the year progresses. In the end, top luxury sales is only good for one thing, and that's marketing. Lexus has been number one so long that it doesn't even need to brag any more, but if BMW manages to pull out the win in 2009, we're sure there'll be more than a couple celebratory commercials.