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Q4 2021 Kelley Blue Book Brand Watch Report: Lexus Just Beats BMW as Most-Shopped Luxury Brand; Tesla on Their Heels


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Article Highlights

  1. BMW barely maintained its spot as most-shopped luxury brand as Lexus rode its bumper.
  2. Lexus RX overtook Tesla Model 3 as the most-considered luxury vehicle.
  3. Shopping for luxury cars falls to all-time low of less than half of all shoppers.

Lexus squeaked by BMW as the most-shopped luxury brand in the fourth quarter of 2021, a spot the German brand had held for the past three years, according to the Kelley Blue Book Brand Watch™ report. But Tesla is right behind both.

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.

Lexus ekes by BMW for No. 1

Lexus took the No. 1 most-shopped spot by less than a tenth of a percentage point. It was the first time in seven years that Lexus ranked first; it was the first time in three years that BMW was not first. Audi beat BMW in the second quarter of 2018.

Quarterly Brand Consideration

Of all luxury shoppers, 20% shopped for Lexus and for BMW. Lexus has been gaining on BMW for three quarters, finally moving ahead by a hair. Lexus’ bestselling RX SUV slipped in shopping consideration, while the BMW X5 had a 42% gain. The BMW 3 Series shopping was also up 13%.

The battle for the luxury shopping crown between Lexus and BMW will be a competitive one in 2022 as both brands plan a significant product offensive this year. Lexus launches new NX and LX SUVs, adds a V8 to the IS sedan and expands technology, including hands-free driving, to the flagship LS sedan. BMW introduces EVs to compete with Tesla, including the i4 sport sedan and iX crossover as well as a new 2 Series and freshening of the X3 and X4.

Tesla Gains on Lexus, BMW

Both brands had better keep an eye on the rearview mirror as Tesla moves fast on them. Tesla had the biggest increase in shopping consideration of any luxury brand in the fourth quarter, up three percentage points to 18% of all luxury shoppers looking at a Tesla. That translated into sales as Tesla, undeterred by the chip shortage, contributed to the surge in EV sales and beat other luxury brands in sales in 2021, according to the Kelley Blue Book quarterly sales report.

The increase in its shopping thrust Tesla ahead of Audi and Mercedes-Benz for the first time in the Kelley Blue Book Brand Watch report after the German makes each lost a percentage point of shopping consideration. Tesla has come a long way, considering it ranked No. 7 most-shopped luxury brand just a year earlier, behind the Germans and Lexus.

The Tesla Model 3 was the most-shopped luxury vehicle in the quarter, followed by the Model Y, which was No. 2 of all vehicles and the most-shopped luxury SUV. Both had whopping increases in shopping consideration. Model 3 shopping was up 56%, and Model Y consideration rose 43%. Shopping for the Model S edged 2% higher.

The Rest of the Luxury Pack

Other luxury brands that slipped in shopping consideration were Cadillac, Acura, Lincoln and Buick. All lost a percentage point of shopping. Acura saw a hefty increase in RDX shopping, but it couldn’t offset less consideration of the MDX. Buick saw big decline in Enclave shopping.

EV startups Rivian, Lucid and Polestar gained a percentage point each. Still low on the chart, 2% of luxury shoppers considered Rivian and Lucid in the fourth quarter. By comparison, Jaguar was at 3%. About 1% shopped Polestar – about the same that considered Alfa Romeo and Maserati.

The rest of the luxury brands held steady in the quarter.

Luxury SUV Shopping Sets a Record

Shopping for luxury SUVs has been on the rise in recent years, but the shift from cars to SUVs was somewhat slower on the luxury side than non-luxury. But that has shifted. Of all luxury vehicle shoppers, a record 70% considered an SUV. The percentage of non-luxury was 66% in the fourth quarter, according to the Kelley Blue Book Brand Watch report for non-luxury brands.

Quarterly Luxury Segment Consideration

The Tesla Model Y ranked as the most shopped luxury SUV for the first time, ousting the Lexus RX, which spent two years in the top spot. The RX was No. 2, followed in order by the Acura MDX, BMW X5 – which rejoined the Top 5 list after falling off in the previous quarter – and Acura RDX, also making a return showing. The Buick Enclave and Cadillac XT5 dropped from the Top 5 most-shopped SUVs, leaving Tesla as the only domestic model on the list.

Shopping for luxury cars held steady at 49% of all shoppers, though that’s down from 51% a year ago. Again, Tesla made a strong showing with the Model 3 as the most-shopped luxury car for the fourth consecutive quarter and the Model S as third. The Mercedes-Benz E-Class, which had a gain in shopping consideration, was No. 2. BMW 3 Series and 5 Series were No. 4 and No. 5, respectively.

Top 10 Dominated by SUVs

The Top 10 list of most-shopped vehicles was dominated by SUVs. Tesla had the most vehicles represented with the Model 3, Model Y and Model S in first, second and seventh place, respectively.

Top 10 Luxury Models Considered

BMW and Acura each had two models on the list. Acura had the MDX at No. 4 and the RDX at No. 6. BMW had the X5 at No. 5 and the 3 Series at No. 9, but its X3 dropped off the list from the previous quarter.

The Lexus RX slipped to No. 3, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class took No. 7 and Buick Enclave was No. 10.

Acura Knocks Lexus from No. 1 in Durability/Reliability

Durability/Reliability, always most important to all shoppers by a wide margin, became even more As there was a shakeup in the order of most-shopped brands, there was a shake-up in the highest performers in the dozen factors most important to shoppers considering a luxury vehicle.

Acura ranked No. 1 in Durability/Reliability, displacing Lexus, which held the spot for more than seven years. Durability/Reliability is the most important of 12 most important factors to shoppers. Lexus dropped to No. 2 and Genesis rose to No. 3. Lexus did retain its No. 2 spot for Reputation with Acura following in second place. Acura also took No. 2 spots in Affordability and Ruggedness, behind Land Rover.

Factors Driving Luxury Consideration

Genesis came on strong in the fourth quarter, nabbing a half-dozen of the Top 3 spots in the dozen factors, more than any brand. It ranked first in Affordability, second in Exterior Styling behind Porsche, and third in Durability/Reliability, Driving Comfort and Technology.

Tesla held onto its long-held first-place spots in Technology and Fuel Efficiency. Mercedes was first in Driving Comfort and Prestige/Sophistication, knocking Porsche out of that spot. Porsche did retain its first-place rankings in Driving Performance and Exterior Styling. Volvo kept its long-held spot for Safety, followed by BMW and Mercedes. 

Lincoln had an improved showing, ranking No. 2 in Driving Comfort and No. 3 in Interior Layout and Ruggedness.

Audi was knocked out of the running for win, place or show in all 12 factors. Cadillac did not score on any count either.

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