There’s no doubt affordability levels are increasing globally, with demand for luxury cars continuing to surge in January.
A year ago, demand for luxury cars was still smarting from the steep industry downturn in 2009, but the segment staged a faster-than-expected comeback through 2010, driven mainly by a growing number of affluent Chinese customers and a market recovery in the U.S – our report last month on how Rolls Royce has picked up sales by filtering through into the Chinese market was clearly indicative of this.
More recent reports indicate that sales by other German luxury automakers also got off to a roaring start in January, with BMW and Daimler posting a strong first quarter report and also sticking to record full-year forecasts.
Luxury Beyond Rational: BMW
BMW, the world's leading premium car maker, reported having sold more than 105,000 BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce vehicles, a gain of nearly 30%.
"We were able to make substantial gains in Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa," BMW sales chief Ian Robertson said in a statement.
The world's best-selling premium auto maker reiterated that it’s BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce brands were expected to reach sales records this year, with total sales exceeding 1.5 million cars in 2011 compared with 1.46 million last year.
"We want to reinforce our global position as the leading supplier of premium automobiles," Mr. Robertson said. "We expect growth rates to remain strong over the next few months, although the pace will slow a little in the second half of the year."
In January, sales for the BMW brand climbed 30% year-on-year to 90,841 cars from 69,861 in the prior-year period. Deliveries of the small sports-utility-vehicle X1 rose to 7,067 cars, up 73% from 4,092 in January 2010. Sales for the new-generation 5 Series more than doubled to 24,109 cars from 11,037 last year.
The Best or Nothing: Mercedes-Benz
Not too far behind in terms of growth, Mercedes-Benz last week reported global sales of 82,700 cars in January compared with 67,000 in the same month last year, up 23%. New products such as the CLS and the upcoming new-generation SLK roadster are expected to foster momentum in coming months.
"We will be building on this excellent start in the coming weeks and expect to see significant sales growth in the first quarter," Mercedes-Benz sales chief Joachim Schmidt said.
Mercedes-Benz aims for a new car sales record in 2011, beating the record year 2007. Mercedes-Benz sold 1.19 million passenger cars that year. Last year, the brand's sales totaled 1.17 million.
Following our own Rules: Audi
Audi AG, the world's third-largest luxury car maker by unit sales after BMW and Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz brand, also posted a 23% rise in global sales to 95,400 cars in January from 77,792 vehicles last year.
"Based on the current order situation, we expect a strong first quarter," said Audi sales chief Peter Schwarzenbauer. "Development of the business in our European export markets is important to our annual forecast, which calls for 1.2 million cars to be sold. And I see strong signs here, with an increase of 19% in January," Mr. Schwarzenbauer said.
Audi's sales last month were driven by strong demand for its Q5 and Q7 SUVs.
Audi is the premium brand and key earnings contributor of Volkswagen AG, Europe's largest auto maker by unit sales. The unit reached a record last year with sales of 1.09 million cars world-wide.