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D
emand remains strong for high-end cars
that exude quality and prestige. Motoring
correspondents Eddie Cunningham and Declan
O'Byrne look at the models most coveted in
Ireland and around the globe.
Although struggling with recession and plunging
car sales, there have been some extraordinary success stories for
makers of luxury vehicles.
irelanD
The new Range Rover, which arrived here recently, has outstripped
expectations with more than 40 bought at an average cost of 140,000.
BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Porsche are the names on most shopping lists,
not just in Ireland but across Europe, the Middle East, the US and,
lately, in China.
For example, in the teeth of a raging recession, BMW recently
unveiled its powerhouse M6 Gran Coupe with a retail price of around
181,000. And there will be buyers for it, as there will be for large
luxury limousines, such as the Mercedes S-Class, Jaguar XJ and BMW
7-series.
Then, of course, there is Porsche. Its first four-door, the Panamera,
is more of a curiosity in Ireland, though, like the brilliant 911 and
Cayenne SUV, hugely admired and sought after by those who really
know their cars and what they want from them.
The odd Maserati or Ferrari has been spotted in the more affluent
suburbs of Dublin but they are special imports, or are bought from a
distributor in the North, and cost a small fortune.
While the numbers of luxury models sold in Ireland are relatively
small, there probably was never a better time to buy as sellers are
desperate to hold market share and the span of technology is breath-
taking.
euroPe
The European market shows a far higher percentage of luxury
performance cars being sold. These would, in particular, include the
likes of AMG versions of Mercedes E-Class, M versions of BMW 3-
and 5-series, and more powerful versions of Audi A6.
Such models are much sought after and, because of more benign
tax regimes, are more affordable than in countries like Ireland and
Denmark (which has a penal motor taxation system).
Again, German marques dominate, though traditional exotic car
makers, such as Ferrari, Bugatti, and Maserati, are highly prized and
far more prevalent than in Ireland.
In addition, there is strong evidence that the big names can withstand
the recession better than lower-priced, mainstream family cars. For
example, the Porsche Cayenne SUV, Mercedes CLS 4dr coupe, Rolls
Royce Ghost, Lamborghini Aventador, Maserati Gran Turismo, Aston
Martin V8/V12 Vantage, Bentley Continental GT/GTC, Ferrari 458
Italia, and the Audi R8 all bucked the recessionary climate across
Europe.
uniteD states
US buyers love their home-made performance cars but are prone
to succumb to German and British marques when it comes to their
luxury cars.
It hasn't taken long for the likes of Mercedes and Lexus to outstrip US
luxury car brands such as GM's Cadillac and Ford's famous Lincoln.
The latter two have now fallen well down the pecking order in a
segment dominated by Lexus, Mercedes, BMW and Honda's luxury
arm, Acura.
All of the top 10 carmakers enjoyed increases last year. Among the
big-sellers were the Infiniti G (Nissan's luxury arm), Audi's Q5, A6
and S8 (a performance version of the A8, which has a base price of
around $110,000).
BMW has enjoyed a big lift in sales as it goes head-to-head with
Mercedes for the highly lucrative US market.
miDDle east anD china
Wealthy Middle Eastern buyers want the best. Price is usually not an
issue. Executives like their wait for it German marques too. Take
a drive through Dubai and you get a wonderful cross-section of high-
end motoring.
Here's a long-wheelbase BMW 7-series. There's a Rolls-Royce Silver
Cloud. Over there, a Mercedes S-Class, a Porsche Cayman, several
top-spec Range Rovers and a Lamborghini. Dubai is a luxury car
connoisseur's delight.
But, while the Middle East rolls in oil money, it is rivalled, in terms of
purchasing super-luxury cars, by the massive Chinese market, which
has been expanding exponentially for a decade.
Ten years ago, there were few luxury cars to be seen, though guess
who were opening showrooms and factories there? Yes, the German
automakers. But perhaps the most significant sign of a sea-change was
the recent Shanghai Motor Show. Porsche was there to show off its
newly revised Panamera coupe (costing nearly 82,000) and
Maserati was there with its all-new, mid-size Ghibli saloon.
Regardless of the market or the location, however, it is clear that the
old names still ring up the sales. Luxury is a tradition that creates its
own enduring mystique.
laPs of luxury
prestige CAr sAles stAy on trACk despite reCession
High-end marques like Mercedes can withstand the
recession better than lower-priced, mainstream family cars
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