A few weeks ago, I asked autos analyst Max Warburton of Bernstein Research to pin down the 10 most profitable vehicles of modern times.
Warburton explained that were a number of ways to calculate profitability, but that EBIT (Earnings Before Interest and Taxes), where the profitability includes the fixed costs of vehicle making as well as the number of vehicles built in a model’s lifetime, was the most accurate.
The analysts told us that, roughly, there are three ways for car makers to make serious money. A vehicle that is mechanically and technically (think a separate chassis) simple, rarely re-engineered and then sold in huge volumes. The vehicles that fit best into this category are US-market, pick-ups such as the Ford F-series.
The second money-making formula is to build Premium-badge German saloons - such as the S-Class, E-Class and 5-series - an opportunity only available to Mercedes and BMW, admittedly.
Thirdly, Bernstein reckons that global Japanese medium-size saloons - such as the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord - are also a good bet because they are made in large volumes and combine low build costs and reasonable retail prices.