The world’s rich lay it down in post-pandemic luxury car rush

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Paris (AFP)

The global rebound from the coronavirus pandemic is pushing sales of luxury car makers to levels never seen before, as order books like Lamborghini, Ferrari and Rolls-Royce have erupted with demand from the world’s rich.

Like ordinary workers around the world, the richest have reduced their consumption in 2020, with “double-digit” sales drops for manufacturers of the most coveted cars, says Felipe Munoz of market research firm Jato Dynamics .

But “the customers of these cars were not as exposed as the others” to the financial fallout of the crisis, he adds.

For the rich, “the crux of the problem was that they couldn’t leave their homes,” says Munoz. “They have postponed their purchases.”

The rebound in exclusive cars was already underway in the last quarter of 2020 as they scoured their platinum credit cards again, cushioning the blow of the pandemic against mass market manufacturers.

Last year, annual sales of Volkswagen-owned Lamborghini surpassed their 2019 record of 7,430 vehicles, driven by the Italian automaker’s big SUV Urus, which came in at around 200,000 euros ($ 220,000 as of United States).

Closed factories caused Ferrari sales to drop 10% last year to 9,119.

But bosses say the dark horse brand now has a “record-breaking order book,” powered by the € 450,000 SF90 Stradale – the automaker’s first plug-in hybrid – as well as the two-seater Monza sans. windshield, estimated at around 1.7 million euros.

Ferrari hopes to surpass the 10,000 unit mark next year, when it becomes the last luxury producer to offer an SUV with the “Purosangue”.

– ‘It’s time to enjoy life’ –

“The luxury market still has very specific rules and customers,” explains Guillaume Crunelle, automotive industry analyst at Deloitte.

“Behavior is much more linked to personal situations, to the evolution of their wealth, than to market trends.”

After a year with less consumption, “there is a lot of money to spend,” Torsten Muller-Otvos, general manager of Rolls-Royce told AFP.

However, the boss of the BMW subsidiary also sees the consequences of the pandemic in people’s purchasing habits.

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“Many of our customers have said that Covid has taught them that life can end easily tomorrow and now is the time to enjoy your life.”

This week, the historic British brand launched a model inspired by yachts, the “Boat Tail”, of which it has so far built only three units – and will not reveal the price.

Muller-Otvos says the new car is “much more refined” than its latest custom build, the Sweptail, which cost around $ 13 million.

– Go to China –

Rolls-Royce’s idiosyncrasies notwithstanding, most, even among the most expensive manufacturers, have followed trends like the unstoppable ride of the SUV – and a green shift towards electrification, says Deloitte’s Crunelle.

Jato Dynamics ‘analysis showed that sports cars only accounted for 5% of luxury sales last year, while SUVs’ market share surpassed coupes for the first time.

In Britain, Bentley and McLaren laid off thousands of workers at the start of the virus outbreak – only for Bentley to record record sales of 11,000 units driven by the Bentayga SUV at 200,000 euros.

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Rolls-Royce had its best quarter at the start of 2021, powered by its New Ghost coupe and its 2.6-ton, 350,000-euro Cullinan SUV, the most expensive on the market.

And James Bond favorite Aston Martin has come back from the brink of bankruptcy with his almost equally bulky DBX.

Looking ahead, “this year’s production is complete,” Rolls-Royce’s Muller-Otvos said.

Europe and North America remain strong markets for luxury brands, but most of the growth is in China.

“It is the number one region in the world for wealth creation, and cars are still a very powerful status mark,” said Crunelle.

Munoz predicts that “with more and more millionaires and billionaires (in China) every year, the trend is expected to continue.”

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