Most successful and popular cars 2011

Here are 10 models that are both posting impressive sales gains and moving their respective brands forward throughout 2011. As if to underscore the time-honored notion in the automotive business that “new cars sell,” most of the models that showed the biggest sales gains over the first half of the year were those that either premiered or have been redesigned for 2011.

Jaguar XJ
Jaguar XJ

Tom Libby, an advisor with the market research firm R.L. Polk & Co, in Southfield, Mich., recently identified what are the five “most successful” models each in the premium and non-premium new-car segments. This is based largely on their increases in retail registrations this year through the end of June compared to the same period a year earlier. In addition to being among the year’s top sellers, Libby cites each model as “helping the make move forward” by boosting the brand’s aggregate sales and/or elevating its market perception.

While at one time the movers and shakers among mainstream models would have certainly been big and burly sport-utility vehicles, four out of five are now passenger cars, including two domestic-branded autos. Of these, two are family cars (Hyundai Sonata and Volkswagen Jetta), one is a compact (Chevrolet Cruze) and one a subcompact (Ford Fiesta). The former are helping their respective brands make significant inroads into the midsize sedan market, while the latter two are riding a wave of popularity stirred by a strong undercurrent of stinging gas prices.

And while traditional 4X4 SUVs may have lost their luster in recent years in favor of more user-friendly all-wheel-drive crossovers, the fifth non-premium model on R.L. Polk’s list is the redesigned Jeep Grand Cherokee, it’s now as refined as it is rugged and remains among the most off-road-worthy vehicles.

Libby cites other successful mainstream vehicles this year as being the Kia Optima, Buick Regal, Chrysler 200 (Sebring), Dodge Durango, Hyundai Elantra and Chevrolet Equinox.

Among premium models, the five vehicles enjoying the greatest boosts in popularity include just a single domestic model, the Cadillac CTS. Though that car has been around in its current form since 2008, it added what has become a popular coupe version last fall. The remainder of the top five is split evenly between luxury sedans (BMW 5 Series and Jaguar XJ) and sporty upscale crossover SUVs (Porsche Cayenne and BMW X3), all of which received major makeovers for model-year 2011.

Another hot-selling premium car that just missed being on Polk’s most-successful list is the Volvo S60 sedan.

One caveat: As Libby notes, “These results would most likely be different if the Japanese earthquake/tsunamis of March 11 had not occurred,” citing the resulting inventory shortages for Honda and Toyota that negatively affected sales from both brands.

Here are sales statistics and other nuggets of information for some of the notable models in the list:

Jaguar XJ
Sales of the flagship Jaguar XJ luxury sedan were up by 273 percent over the first six months of 2011, and it’s easy to see why. With its model-year 2011 reinvention, the new XJ is a stunning departure from its stodgy predecessor inside and out. A choice of supercharged and naturally aspirated V8 engines deliver dynamic performance. It easily outsells the less expensive XF and sets the tone for future models in the company’s pipeline.

Cadillac CTS coupe

Cadillac CTS coupe
Cadillac CTS coupe

Though the CTS was last redesigned for 2008, it’s enjoyed a 54 percent increase in sales through the end of June, with the new-for-2011 coupe models being particularly successful. The two-doors now account for 28 percent of all CTS retail registrations according to R.L. Polk & Co. Retail deliveries of the CTS outpaced all small premium cars through the end of June with the exception of the venerable BMW 3 Series, its helped Cadillac see its overall sales jump by 26 percent.

Jeep Grand Cherokee
With sales having taken a nosedive in recent years, the Grand Cherokee is back on track with a successful 2011 redesign that gave it more graceful styling, better road manners, upgraded powertrains and enhanced off-road abilities. Sales are up by an impressive 170 percent during the first half of the year, helping fuel a 59 percent overall surge for the Jeep brand during 2011.

According to R.L. Polk & Co., the redesigned-for-2011 compact X3 sporty crossover SUV is the most successful vehicle thus far for 2011. Sales were up by an impressive 276 percent over the first half of the year, compared to what the previous generation, which itself wasn’t all that bad to begin, with managed during the same period in 2010. Polk’s Tom Libby attributes the increase in part to a lack of availability during what was a lengthy changeover period. No matter, the lively X3 is now the most popular small crossover in the business.

Porsche Cayenne
Receiving its first-ever makeover last fall that included both styling revisions and mechanical upgrades, the sporty Cayenne crossover SUV enjoyed a 178 percent boost in sales through the end of June, compared to the same period in 2010. A Hybrid version was recently added to help boost its allure among affluent environmentalists.

Hyundai Sonata
Hyundai (along with its corporate cousin Kia) has come a long way in recent years. While the redesigned for 2011 Sonata midsize sedan’s sales upsurge at 32 percent is less than other cars on this list, its “fluidic sculpture design language” is cited as setting a forceful tone for the brand. R.L. Polk & Co. reports that more individuals have purchased or leased a Hyundai Sonata in the first six months of 2011 than any other midsize car with the exception of the class, leading Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.

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