Glass Half Full
Seeing the "wide divide"

Does it make sense?

Nyt_lexusThere is nothing wrong with the way this chart is constructed.  I'd probably have the labels all set to the right in a column but otherwise, no real issues.

However, this chart bugs me in another way.  I just cannot make sense of it.  The year 1999 appears to be some kind of watershed year for these 4 automakers: they roughly split the market that year.  It is very strange that all the lines would meet at a point and then spread out again.  It seems very unnatural.  It makes me wonder if we are looking at bad data.  Anyone have access to the underlying data or knowledge of what kind of watershed was 1999?

Reference: "An Ambitious Lexus Takes On the Europeans", New York Times, April 15 2006.


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John F. Opie

Hi -

Can't make sense of the numbers in that form either: what it looks like is rather they took indexed numbers 1999 = 100 and then looked to see how many vehicles someone sold in that year to get at the vehicle levels.

Otherwise, it makes little sense...


PS: And the chart would have been much, much better if they had indexed the first year as being equal to 100: then the relative growth would be instantly clear...


I wonder if they were selective about which brands they included so as to achieve that interesting graphic effect. Or to put it another way, why are Acura, Infiniti and BMW not included?


Huh? They can't cross as a coincidence?


We are looking at only four luxury automakers. What about BMW, Acura, Infinity, Jaguar, Hummer, et al...?


Im not sure, but I think that was the year that the tax break for commercial vehicles included SUV's which Lexus and Mercedes made, but I don't believe Cadillac or Lincoln had at the time.


The only way they would all converge would be if the chart were indexed to 1999, as a previous poster mentioned. That would mean that the purpose of the chart was to track how manufacturers have fared since (or before) 1999 by starting them all at zero, like a race. But this chart is clearly not showing a comparison - those are actual vehicles sold.

Adding to the puzzle is that the Mercedes line seems to cross just ahead of everyone else.

No "event" could explain a covergence like that (except maybe a law being passed that year that mandated the production of 175,000 cars). Either it just happened, or the chart is in error.


Lexus sold 137,000 cars in 2001. Not even close.

I think what happened is they flip-flopped back and forth between two graphs - market share (indexed to 100 in 1999) and vehicles sold, and the graph that got published contains the lines from market share and the axes from vehicles sold. It's meaningless.


Hold on, this reference: (
has two supporting numbers and one semi-supporting statement.

"In 2005, Toyota sold 302,895 Lexus vehicles in the U.S."

"This is up 5.8% vs. a year earlier." (Thus making about 286290 in 2004.)

"first time a luxury brand had sold 300,000 units since Cadillac achieved that feat in the mid-1980's".

The intersection is *very* strange, but the 286K and 303K numbers matching on a 1999-index would be almost as strange.


Same 2005 number for Lexus quoted here:
plus the additional statement:
"the sixth straight year it has been the best-selling luxury brand in the United States."
which matches the chart.


Okay, I'm done now.

The numbers here for 1999 and 2000 match the chart as far as I can tell.

So the near convergence at 1999? Real. And quite a coincidence.


the data are from
they are accurate. u.s. market new vehicle sales.
the numbers are not indexed.

sales in 99
cadillac: 178,507
lincoln: 176,493
lexus: 185,890
mercedes: 189,437


complete data :

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