The luxury car market has bucked the economic gloom with Bentley and Rolls-Royce both reporting a jump in sales. Bentley recorded a 22 per cent increase in sales around the world last year, while Rolls-Royce achieved record sales for the third consecutive year.
Rolls-Royce sold 3,575 cars - just 37 more than in 2011 when it sold 3,538 cars, but a ten-fold rise on the 300 sold in 2003.
Bosses of both firms said they hope to build on the strong results next year despite the toughening economic conditions.
Goodwood-based Rolls-Royce, which is owned by German giant BMW and where prices start at £200,000, has achieved sales growth in nine of the ten last years.
Bentley’s chairman and chief executive Wolfgang Schreiber said: ‘We expect the luxury market in 2013 to continue to be challenging but, with significant new model introductions, we believe we have the potential to maintain growth throughout the year.’
Bentley’s biggest markets are north America and China, although it is also growing quickly in the Middle East and Russia, where the car is still seen as a status symbol among the wealthy and privileged.
In America sales were up 22 per cent to 2,457 cars and in China an increase of 23 per cent saw sales of 2,253 cars in 2012.
The Chinese particularly liked the Diamond Jubilee edition of the flagship Mulsanne model, with four in ten Mulsannes leaving the plant sold in China. Russia’s sales were up by 37 per cent even though Europe as a whole (excluding the UK) were up by just 12 per cent to 1,333.
In the Middle East, Bentley sold 815 cars - a 44 per cent hike - while the Asia Pacific region saw a similar rise (44 per cent) with sales of 358 cars. Japan’s sales of 190 was a 73 per cent rise.
Rolls-Royce, which counts more than 100 dealerships across 40 countries selling the Phantom and Ghost ranges, now employs 1,400 at its headquarters in Sussex. Prices for the ‘entry-level’ Ghost start at £198,000 while the Phantom will cost its well-heeled owners from £282,000.
Boss Torsten Muller-Vtvvs said: ‘We had an outstanding year in spite of the challenges we faced, and Rolls-Royce now leads the ultra luxury market by some considerable margin.
‘I applaud the Rolls-Royce workforce for their passion and commitment to this Great British brand and we can look forward to future success.’
Car sales in general appear to have picked up in the UK, with new figures released this week revealing that 2012 saw the largest increase in new car sales in more than a decade.
More than two million new cars were sold in 2012, an increase of 5.3 per cent on 2011 and the highest since 2008, said the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
The figures mark a positive sign that consumer demand is in ruder health.
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