- BMW ranked first; Cadillac soared to No. 2, followed by Lexus.
- The Cadillac Escalade was the most-shopped luxury vehicle in the quarter.
- Acura keeps the top spot it grabbed from Lexus for Durability/Reliability.
BMW regained its spot as the most-shopped luxury brand in the first quarter of 2022, a spot it had held for the past three years until the final quarter of 2021 when Lexus squeaked by, according to the Q1 2022 Kelley Blue Book Brand Watch™ report. Cadillac for the first time moves past Lexus to take the No. 2 spot. Tesla fell to No. 5.
The Kelley Blue Book Brand Watch report is a consumer perception survey that also weaves in consumer shopping behavior to determine how a brand or model stacks up with its segment competitors on a dozen factors key to a consumer’s buying decision. Kelley Blue Book produces a separate Brand Watch report for non-luxury and luxury brands each quarter. Beginning in Q1 2022, the methodology includes surveying both mobile and desktop users instead of only desktop users.
BMW RETURNS TO FIRST PLACE
BMW returned to the most-shopped luxury brand in the first quarter. Of all luxury shoppers, 21% considered a BMW, up a percentage point from the final quarter of 2021. A 37% increase in shopping for the 5 Series sedan and a 7% rise in 3 Series shopping made the difference, offsetting a 21% drop in X5 SUV shopping. BMW had special APR financing on both sedans during the quarter that helped bolster shopping.
QUARTERLY BRAND CONSIDERATION
Lexus, which had squeaked by BMW in the previous quarter, fell to third place in the first quarter. Of all luxury vehicle shoppers, 17% considered a Lexus, down from 20%. Shopping for the brand’s best-selling RX fell 24%, likely due to a lack of inventory.
The big surprise was the surge by Cadillac to the No. 2 most-shopped luxury brand. Of all luxury shoppers, 18% considered a Cadillac, a hefty 5 percentage point rise from last year’s final quarter, making it the quarter’s biggest gainer. The Escalade had a stunning 171% rise in shopping during the first quarter and was the most-shopped luxury vehicle. In terms of sales, the Escalade and larger Escalade ESV were the only Cadillac models to post gains in the first quarter, and their increase in Average Transaction Prices pushed them well over $100,000. The brand also is getting publicity for the upcoming Lyriq crossover, its first EV, as the brand goes totally electric. Cadillac also saw increases in shopping for the XT5 and CT5.
The other surprise was the fall of Tesla. Only 15% of shoppers considered a Tesla, down from 18% in the fourth quarter last year when it was No. 3. Shopping for the Model 3 and Model Y each dropped by 30% in the latest survey, but Tesla buyers may do little shopping as they know what they want. Tesla hit another sales record in the first quarter, largely on the strength of the Model Y.
Mercedes-Benz rounded out the Top 5 Most-Shopped luxury brands, holding steady at 16% of all luxury vehicle shoppers.
THE REST OF THE PACK
Other gainers among luxury brands were:
- Acura, up a percentage point to 12% of all luxury shoppers, on the strength of recently redesigned MDX.
- Buick, up significantly to 11% from 8%, due to shopping increases for the recently freshened Enclave, up 76%, and smaller Encore, up 24%. Buick had a huge sales decline of 58% in the first quarter, so shopping didn’t convert into sales, perhaps because of the drastic cuts in incentives.
- Infiniti shopping rose to 8% from 5%, Land Rover edged up to 7% from 6%, and Alfa Romeo was up to 2% from 1%.
Luxury brands that saw declines in shopping activity were Audi, Volvo, Lincoln and Porsche. All slipped a percentage point from the previous quarter.
Newcomers Rivian and Lucid dropped from 2% to 1% each of all luxury shoppers, likely due to highly publicized production problems that have limited availability of their models.
The remainder of the brands held steady in the quarter.
SUV SHOPPING STRONG BUT OFF RECORD
Shopping for luxury SUVs in the first quarter retreated from its record level in the final quarter of 2021. Of all luxury shoppers, 68% considered luxury SUVs, down from 70% in the fourth quarter of 2021 but still up from 66% from the year-ago first quarter.
The Cadillac Escalade ranked as the most-shopped luxury SUV for the first time. The highest spot Escalade had held was No. 3 in the fourth quarter of 2020 when the redesigned version was introduced.
The Tesla Model Y, which held the top spot in the previous quarter, slipped to No. 3. The Lexus RX, which has generally been No. 1 for the past two years, fell to No. 4. The Buick Enclave was No. 2. Acura MDX was No. 5. Both the Enclave and MDX were freshened in the past year.
Shopping for luxury cars rose from last quarter, possibly due to higher gas prices driving consumers to seek more fuel-saving options. Of all luxury shoppers, 51% considered a car, up from 49% in the previous quarter but still down from 54% a year ago.
QUARTERLY LUXURY SEGMENT CONSIDERATION
Tesla, again, made a strong showing with the Model 3 being the most-shopped luxury car for the fifth consecutive quarter and the Model S at No. 4. The BMW 5 Series and 3 Series were second and third. The Cadillac CT5 joined the list at No. 5, knocking the Mercedes-Benz E-Class off the list.
Launches of the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the return of the Acura Integra could breathe new life into the luxury car segment and cause a re-ordering of the rankings in the future.
TOP 10 DOMINATED BY SUVS
The Top 10 list of most-shopped vehicles in total continues to be dominated by SUVs. Seven of the 10 were SUVs, and the Cadillac Escalade SUV was the most-shopped luxury vehicle in the quarter.
TOP 10 LUXURY MODELS CONSIDERED
BMW had the most models on the list with the 5 Series, 3 Series and X5 at No. 6, No. 8 and No. 9, respectively. Tesla had two models on the list with Model 3 and Model Y at No. 3 and No. 4, respectively. Buick also had two models: the Enclave and Encore at No. 2 and No. 10, respectively.
The Lexus RX, at No. 5, and the Acura MDX at No. 7 rounded out the list.
MERCEDES-BENZ NABS MOST TOP HONORS
Mercedes-Benz took the most top honors in the most important factors to luxury vehicle shoppers. The German luxury brand took the top spots in Driving Comfort, Interior Layout and Prestige/Sophistication. It placed in Safety, Technology, Durability/Reliability and Exterior Styling. It has been since the second quarter of 2016 that Mercedes took top honors in more than two categories.
FACTORS DRIVING LUXURY CONSIDERATION
Acura overtook Lexus in the most important factor to shoppers – Durability/Reliability – in 2021’s fourth quarter and held onto the spot in the first quarter this year. Acura was second to Lexus for Reputation, possibly influenced by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarding MDX, RDX and TLX with top safety pick designations. Acura also ranked for Affordability, Fuel Efficiency and Interior Layout.
Tesla took two top spots – Fuel Efficiency and Technology. It ranked in Ruggedness, Driving Performance, Reputation and Prestige/Sophistication.
As a sign of the gas price-surging times, fuel efficiency climbed from No. 10 to No. 7 in importance in the first quarter. Driving Performance was the only other factor that increased in importance.
BMW took No. 1 in Driving Performance for the first time by edging out Porsche and Tesla. BMW also ranked in Exterior Styling and Technology.
Volvo held onto first place in Safety. Lexus kept the top spot for Reputation, and Range Rover continued as No. 1 in Ruggedness.