BMW Buyers in U.S. See a Ford in Their Future: Chart of the Day http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601109&sid=aY6O8.EQ8Jpo&refer=home By Greg Bensinger June 12 (Bloomberg) -- Even the most affluent buyers in the U.S. are thinking twice before shelling out $76,000 for a new BMW 750i sedan, data from industry analysis firm Autodata Corp. indicates. U.S. sales of luxury autos this year have declined more steeply than for the industry as a whole, suggesting gasoline near $4 a gallon has been a deterrent to all consumers. Purchases of luxury autos were down nearly 100,000 units, or 14 percent, through May 31, compared with an 8.4 percent drop in all U.S. sales. Industrywide sales may be headed to their lowest total in 15 years, according to Ford Motor Co. The chart of the day illustrates the monthly declines in sales of luxury vehicles, such as Daimler's Mercedes Benz S- Class or Honda Motor Co.'s Acura RL cars, compared with those for lower-priced competitors, including General Motors Corp.'s Chevrolet Impala. ``This gas panic has extended even to luxury buyers who are deciding they'd rather step down to a Ford with all the amenities rather than get a new Mercedes,'' said David Healy, an equity analyst with Burnham Securities Inc. ``I don't think we'll ever get luxury sales back to where they were historically.'' Deteriorating luxury demand may hurt profits for automakers such as Daimler AG, Toyota Motor Corp. and Porsche SE, which depends on the U.S. for about 40 percent of its global sales. Luxury autos, broadly defined as those selling for $40,000 or more, represent about 10 percent of industrywide sales. ``We expect declines this year in the luxury market, there's no doubt about that,'' said Detlev von Platen, chief executive officer of Porsche Cars North America. Porsche sales are down 15 percent in 2008's first five months, according to Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey-based Autodata. U.S. gasoline prices jumped 31 percent this year through the end of May to an average of $3.98 a gallon and reached $4 on June 7, according to motorist group AAA.