Top 12 Most Profitable Cars Since 1990: Americans Sweep Top Three

If you’ve ever wondered what the most profitable vehicles are, you’re not alone. Auto industry analyst Max Warburton and his London-based team at BernsteinResearch has put together a list of the top 12 most lucrative models produced since 1990. A report from Automotive News reveals Warburton’s findings, and sheds a bit of light on the question of which cars make automakers the most money. The answer? Trucks like the Ford F-Series, apparently, which tops the list and leads a trio of American trucks in the top three spots.

According to Warburton, the key elements of a “cash cow” vehicle are high price, large production volume, and long production runs, which help spread the cost of development over a long period of time. When looking at the top 12 most profitable cars, three distinct categories emerge: Japanese mid-size sedans, German luxury cars, and American full-sized pickups.

Warburton says Japanese sedans had the most difficult time landing on this list, as their relatively low price points made profits per unit less substantial. Still, the other two factors -- large sales volume and long production runs -- allowed models like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord to make the list. German models like the venerable BMW 3 Series, 5 Series, and Mercedes-Benz E-Class fill out the list, with their combination of high price and production numbers.

The big money-makers, however, came from the good old U.S. of A. Thanks in large part to their massive sales volumes, the Ford F-Series topped the list, followed by GM’s Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, and the Dodge Ram. Combined, these three American trucks generated $108 billion in before-tax profits since 1990, just about equal to the profits of the rest of the list put together.

The big-buck dozen

Bernstein Research's 12 most profitable vehicles since 1990. 1. Ford F series 2. GM full-sized pickups 3. Dodge Ram 4. Mercedes S class 5. BMW 5 series 6. BMW 3 series 7. Mercedes E class 8. Lexus RX SUV 9. Jeep Grand Cherokee 10. Honda Accord 11. Porsche 911 12. Toyota Camry

Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)

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