Luxury car market sees sales accelerate in 2014

High-end brands like BMW, Mercedes and Porsche record significant sales increases

While not reaching boomtime peaks, sales of Mercedes and other luxury cars increased significantly last year. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

While not reaching boomtime peaks, sales of Mercedes and other luxury cars increased significantly last year. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

 

The luxury car market is by no means back to boomtime peaks, but it is on the rise again, and last year saw sales of high-end brands recover significantly to levels not seen since before the bust.

The new car market can be a fairly reliable gauge of the health of the economy and an analysis of the data between the years 2000 and 2014 shows huge sales in 2000 followed by a large spike again in 2007 as the economy peaked. The peaks and troughs of the car market are pronounced in the luxury segment, which shone in 2007 in particular.

An examination of the figures supplied by the Society of the Irish Motor Industry shows sales of BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Lexus, Land Rover and Porsche vehicles peaked around 2007 just before the economic crash.

During that year, 5,275 people drove a new Mercedes off a forecourt, 5,276 people drove away in a brand new Audi and a whopping 6,952 new BMWs were sold. Lexus (1,591) and Land Rover (2,077) sales also peaked in 2007.

However, 2008 is when everything started to fall off a cliff for luxury marques as well as for all brands, as the full reality of the crash was felt by consumers.

By 2009 the industry was in crisis, as new car sales reached lows not seen for many years. This lead to the closure of a number of dealerships, some of whom had borrowed heavily to build large new showrooms during the good years.

Consumers instantly cancelled their new car purchase for financial reasons as it was seen as something of a stigma to be driving around with a new number plate as the State and its citizens struggled for survival.

In 2009, sales of BMWs fell from their peak to 1,405, sales of Mercedes to 1,370, Audi to 2,388, Lexus to 215 and Land Rover to 89.

At the upper end of the high-end market, sales of new Porsche vehicles peaked in 2006, when 94 were snapped up, while in 2007 a healthy 85 were bought, according to the statistics. By 2009 that figure was down to 11. Belgard Porsche, the only retailer for the car in Ireland at the time, closed down later that year.

In 2012, a new retailer was up and running and 15 Porsches were sold, increasing to 24 the following year. Last year 48 new Porsches roared off forecourts, indicating that money is beginning to slosh around again and that those who have it are comfortable with spending it.

Other luxury brands saw a marked jump last year. BMW, Audi, Lexus, Mercedes and Land Rover all saw new vehicle sales that may have not surpassed the boom of 2007, but are comparable with the years before the economic crash.

The family car segment shows a different trajectory over the 14-year period. Volkswagen, like other mid-range brands, peaked in 2000, when motorists eager to have a new “00” registration purchased 22,761 new models.

Sales of new VWs plummeted to 6,174 in 2009 but were back up to 9,492 in 2013, before taking a large leap last year when 11,653 were registered.

Graphics by Paul Scott and Pamela Duncan

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