entry lux
n. An automotive classification that consists of the lowest-priced models from a manufacturer or line normally associated with luxury.
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In a quest for younger drivers and higher sales, many other stately luxury-car makers are rolling out models priced under $30,000. Jaguar, known for selling cars with six-figure stickers, recently introduced the $29,950 X-Type to go up against low-priced offerings from BMW and Lexus. All the new models are making luxury's low end the hottest spot in the U.S. auto market. Sales of "entry luxe" cars have soared 23 percent so far this year, while overall auto sales have fallen 4.3 percent. Budget-priced models now make up one third of the $63 billion luxury-car business and outpace sales of high-end SUVs. Coming in the next few years: tiny Beemers and Benzes that start at $20,000. Audi will roll out a small hatchback, while Volvo is designing a model based on Ford's Focus economy car.
—Keith Naughton, “Dude Where's My Benz?,” Newsweek, March 18, 2002
1993 (earliest)
As Olds revamps its lineup, all cars will bear a family resemblance to the Aurora. For example, Olds says it plans to combine the 88 and 98 sedans into one "entry lux" model in the late '90s that will be built off the Aurora platform and could be powered by the 4-liter V-8 or a new V-6 derived from the Northstar V-8.
—Jim Mateja, “Aurora to give Olds new life,” Chicago Tribune, October 10, 1993
The entry level class of consumer goods refers to the cheapest items, and they're so-called because they're priced to allow people of limited means to "enter" the market. Once they're in, various pressures (peer, marketing, obsolescence) will come to bear to convince them to upgrade to higher levels.

This strategy is particularly important in the automotive industry, where even the cheapest cars are still a major investment. Car companies expend prodigious amounts of energy designing, pricing, and marketing the entry vehicle segment.

For many years, manufacturers such as Mercedes and lines such as Cadillac didn't have to get their hands dirty with any of this because they targeted the luxury car buyer. That changed in the 1990s when these and other high-end car makers decided they wanted more of the great unwashed as customers. To that end, they came up with cars such as the Mercedes C-class sedan and the Cadillac Catera that cost twenty or thirty thousand dollars less than the next cheapest model in the lineup. The entry lux market was born. Not surprisingly, there is now great debate within the automotive industry about whether these cheapo versions are "diluting the brands" and thus undermining their "core" customer: the high-end buyer.

Disappointingly, the earliest citation doesn't refer to a luxury car manufacturer at all, but to a plain old GM line (which probably indicates that the term also refers to a price range).

Thanks to sharp-eared reader Mike Blackstone for passing this term along after hearing it on National Public Radio.
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