DETROIT (TheStreet) -- Leases account for more than 20% of all new car purchases for the first time in a decade and, not surprisingly, luxury cars are beneficiaries of this trend.
The favorite car for auto lessees in October was the Mercedes CLS (above), according to a report prepared for
by Edmunds.com. In October, of all the new CLS models sold and financed, 70% were leased, the report showed. Second favorite was the Mercedes SL, with 63% leased. The top eight leased cars also included a third and fourth Mercedes, two Infinitis, a BMW and the
"Typically a luxury car is very expensive, so leasing is a way to rent it just for the time you use it, rather than paying the vehicle price," said Edmunds.com senior analyst Michelle Krebs. Additionally, she said, luxury cars are often leased because they are used for business, enabling a tax benefit.
Manufacturers often offer incentives for leasing. "It is a way to have a sale without screaming about it," Krebs said. "It's more subtle than that."
Although Cadillac is the
fastest-growing manufacturer in the luxury segment, Krebs noted that the brand trails in leasing partially because of
separation from GMAC, which had been its financing arm.
On Oct. 1, GM completed its $3.5 billion acquisition of AmeriCredit Corp., which it renamed General Motors Financial Co. The acquisition, GM said, will form the foundation of the company's plan to create an in-house financing arm. A new regional lease program is to be launched in the first quarter of 2011.
Here are four of the choices most preferred by auto lessees. The list includes one car from each of the top four manufacturers.
Mercedes accounts for three of the top five leased cars. Not only are 70% of all CLS-class vehicles leased, but also the SL ranks second with 63% leased, the C-class ranks fifth with 55.01% leased and the M-class ranks eighth with 52.93 % leased.
Mercedes has been locked in a battle with Lexus to be the country's top-selling luxury brand, and has offered generous incentives as a result. "I know Mercedes has offered some pretty attractive deals," Krebs said. Looking towards December, "there will be some programs, but there will be nothing stupid just to be No. 1," said Dietmar Exler, vice president of Mercedes-Benz Financial USA, in a recent interview with
Infiniti G37 Coupe
Nissan's Infiniti makes the third- and fourth-leading leased vehicles. According to Edmunds.com, 62% of all G37 Coupe buyers were lessees, while 60% of M56 buyers were lessees. The G 37 starts at $36,050, while the M56 starts at $46,500.
In October, Infiniti sales rose 23% to 7,930. G Series sales rose 11% to 2,711, while M Series sales rose 119% to 1,175. Year to date, Infiniti sales are up 25% to 82,727. G Series is up 24% to 33,201, and M Series is up 62% to 11,765.
BMW 7 Series
The No. 6 most-leased vehicle is the BMW 7 Series. Lessees accounted for 54.55% of all purchases, just percentage points behind the Mercedes C Class, according to Edmunds.com. Krebs noted that BMW has also used incentives to stimulate sales.
Although it has been particularly hard hit by the decline in luxury car buying, BMW is another automaker that is battling Lexus for luxury car leadership. Through October, U.S. Lexus sales totaled 183,528, while Mercedes sales totaled 178,080 and BMW was at 176,736. Meanwhile, Cadillac sales were up 40% to 118,406.
The Lincoln MKS is the seventh most popular car for lessees, who accounted for 53% of its sales. Although Lincoln has been long been
popular with people who rent limos, Ford has slated the brand for a major overhaul.
Year-to-date through October, Lincoln sales were up 6.3% to 70,120. Some experts say Lincoln
competes more with Buick than it does with Cadillac.
-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.
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