Oft-aired TV car ads this summer spotlight a Lexus that’s amassed 1,158 sales nationwide and on an Acura landing 308 buyers through July, according to Automotive News.
An uber-Nissan totals 403 purchases, or one-tenth of one percent of the manufacturer’s car sales. Even a legendary Chevrolet claims less than five percent of its new car deals.
What those vehicles — the iconic Corvette, Nissan GT-R, Acura NSX and Lexus LC — share are luxury sports car pedigrees and upper echelon starting prices from $55,450 to $156,000.
More specifically, they fall into a rarefied category of over-the-top or exotic convertibles and coupes that attract car buyers to showrooms or cause buyers to switch from one carmaker to another, even if the shoppers are really there to purchase a family SUV, commuter sedan or live-work pickup truck.
These mega-wheels carry descriptions such as “halo cars” — designed to show off a company's technological and engineering prowess — or “loss leaders,” indicating their individual profit or loss takes a back seat to directing interest to more conventional, high-volume sister models.
Earlier this summer, U.S. News and World Report named its choices as the 14 best luxury sports cars, offering a comprehensive list of vehicles that are easy on the eye and favorites for test drives, if out of the price range for most American motorists.
The 2018 Lexus LC topped the list. The brand new-luxury sports car “debuts with a bang. It has an incredibly luxurious interior, and its performance is impressive, even for its class,” according to the magazine. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price is $92,000-$96,510, and the Lexus gets 26 mpg highway and 16 mpg city.
To compute the LC’s potential impact on bringing car hunters to dealerships, note that Lexus boasts a dozen models including its best-selling RX luxury SUV and ES high-end sedan.
Similarly, the 2018 Audi R8 Spyder (available now) sports a V-10 engine capable of 610 horsepower and cost just under $235,000, according to Automobile Magazine. It’s the priciest, most powerful and lowest volume seller of Audi's 13 car models and four SUVs and wagons.
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz SL Class, ranking seventh in the U.S. News and World Report piece, is a well-crafted convertible priced from $86,950-$219,850 from a manufacturer that along with Lexus and BMW battle for top sales spot among luxury carmakers in the United States.
Under the Mercedes-Benz umbrella are eight sedans and coupes including the popular C and E classes and seven built on truck platforms from the GLE and M SUVs to the Sprinter and new Metris to be built in the Mercedes-Benz Vans plant in Ladson.
Whether the strategy of promoting glitz really works is subject to debate. Through July, car sales in the U.S. fell 11.7 percent from the same period last year to 3,748,570, while light-duty trucks, which include SUVs, rose 3.5 percent year-over-year to 6,118,706.