U.S. luxury-car sales, once considered resistant to recessions, have plunged 40% over the past two years, compared with the overall market’s 35% drop. Now, high-end car makers are preparing for a rebound that promises to be just as unconventional.
After falling to their lowest level in more than a decade, sales of high-end cars look set to inch toward recovery this year. Volkswagen AG’s Audi is forecasting a roughly 10% jump in U.S. sales, while BMW AG, Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz say they also expect modest increases.
But exactly how the premium-car market will recover remains uncertain and was a topic of intense speculation at this week’s big Detroit auto show. The sales plunge prompted by the recession has been so steep that consumers may be redefining what they want in a luxury vehicle, adding anxiety to a rebound.