The halo car has long been a means for automakers to coerce potential buyers into showrooms. Building something with more power and exciting styling gets attention, but aside from just increasing sales, these cars enhance the brand's image by showcasing state-of-the-art technology with modern design and impressive performance.

Sometimes, halo cars are one-off models, while others are part of a dedicated performance division. This is the case with many high-profile German automakers such as Audi (RS ), BMW (M), and Mercedes-Benz (AMG). Other premium brands also feature special performance divisions, like Alfa Romeo (Quadrifoglio), Lexus (F) and Jaguar (SVR). In most cases, models sold in these performance divisions are derivatives of higher-volume standard models, albeit fitted with more powerful engines and exciting styling.

Which Performance Division Is Best In Terms Of Sales?

Data collected by JATO Dynamics for certain European markets focuses on BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and Alfa Romeo. It indicates that Audi's RS lineup was the most popular in 2021, and was the leader through the first quarter of this year. Sales of all RS branded models, be it a small RS3 or a large RSQ8, totaled approximately 17,600 units in 2021 and nearly 7,000 units in the first three months of 2022. This equals roughly 3.0 percent and 4.7 percent of the brand's total volume, respectively.

Audi has positioned its performance family correctly through a splendid marketing campaign, and offers a wide range of vehicles for customers to choose from. However, key models like the RSQ5 are missing from Audi's portfolio.

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In terms of sales, the RS range was followed by Mercedes-AMG with approximately 6,300 units sold in the first quarter of 2022, down 34 percent compared to the same period last year. Like Audi, Mercedes-Benz offers a wide range of AMG models, with AMG sales accounting for 4.1 percent of the brand's total volume during the same period (versus 5.4 percent in the first quarter of 2021). 

As for BMW M, during the first three months of this year, the Munich brand registered around 3,600 sales for all its full-fat, M-badged models. Volume has increased by 18 percent from 2021 thanks largely to the latest generation of M3 and M4, both characterized by the large grille. Unlike Audi and Mercedes-Benz, the BMW M range represented just 2.3 percent of the brand's total sales. 

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Quadrifoglio Captures Higher Percentage Of Alfa Sales

Finally, it is very interesting to see the greater importance that the Quadrifoglio performance range represents for Alfa Romeo. It's true that, in terms of overall sales volume, Alfa Romeo only accounted for 2.3 percent to 4.7 percent of registrations in Europe for Q1 2022. However, the Quadrifoglio versions of the Giulia and Stelvio represented 5.8 percent of total Alfa Romeo sales for that period, up from 5.3 percent in 2021.

Why does Alfa Romeo see a larger percentage of performance buyers compared to its German competitors? Part of the explanation is due to the limited number of traditional vehicles in Alfa's lineup. However, it is also clear that Alfa Romeo's more exciting models are very popular among Alfa buyers, and garner more attention in terms of media exposure and flat-out performance.

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The author of the article, Felipe Munoz, is a JATO Dynamics Automotive Industry Specialist.

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