While overall auto sales are up about 10%, sales of the most expensive luxury cars in America have grown about 13.5% so far this year, give or take a half percentage point depending on where the velvet rope is draped between high-end and "starter" luxury cars. Through the first 10 months, the trend shows that the higher the price on the sticker, the bigger the gain.
Take Audi, Volkswagen's luxury brand, which is on pace to sell a record 120,000 vehicles in the United States this year. Yes, its big sellers are the lower end A4 sedan and Q5 SUV, both of which start below $36,000. But Audi's real boost this year came from three of its most-expensive models — the large Q7 SUV, and the A7 and A8 sedans, the latter of which can boast a sticker of up to $157,000 when equipped with a V-12 engine, night vision and the optional $6,400 Bang & Olufsen sound system.
It's not just Audi; BMW and Mercedes-Benz sales are also up by double-digit percentages this year. Ferrari's U.S. sales are up 15.6% according to Autodata; Maserati's done even better, posting a 22% increase, and Bentley sales have grown by nearly a third to 1,422. Porsche may be most famous for its 911, but its the Cayenne SUV that's pulled sales up 23% through October.
Yet America's well-heeled tire kickers will not drop cheddar on any old set of wheels. Maybach — at about $370,000 the most expensive new car for sale in America — has only moved 33 copies so far this year, down from 46 in 2010 despite (or perhaps because of) its starring role in Jay-Z's and Kayne West's video for "Otis." And Rolls-Royce, that paragon of British luxury now under BMW's guidance, has delivered a third fewer saloons to American shores this year. Something to keep in mind for those holiday bargain shoppers.