Wednesday 28 September 2016

We're shifting into luxury as we buy into the prestige dream

Published 20/06/2015 | 02:30

Maserati Gran Cabrio.
Maserati Gran Cabrio.
The Porsche 911.

THE figures are, of themselves, modest, and if you blinked you could miss them.

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But deep in the detailed depths of the sales statistics of the Society of the Irish Motor Industry - up to earlier this week - lie what I think are two fairly significant little couplets.

They read:

Maserati 9 - up from 4.

Porsche 50 - up from 27.

In their inimitable fashion they reflect how those with money/credit and confidence are buying new luxury, sporty, exotic cars in bigger quantities again.

And that's not to take into account the number of large prestige secondhand cars that have been bought these past months.

Far more are buying - new or used - what most of us once viewed as the unattainable or preserve of the super rich.

Ironically, even if you have the money you may have to put your dream on hold for a little while because in some cases supply can be a problem due to demand elsewhere.

Mercedes, for example, have told me several times they would have sold more of their flagship S-Class if only they could get their hands on the cars.

It is fair to say, however, that sales figures for some big names are not that scintillating. I am told that a reason for that may be - in some cases - lack of supply as opposed to demand.

By the same token virtually all the prestige names have diversified and downsized to such an extent now that they are sweeping new buyers - those who might otherwise have bought a well-specced mainstream motor - into the 'luxury' net at a fair rate of knots.

The wider net means the numbers getting into a luxury make - from compact hatchback to large prestige saloon - are substantial. And the numbers are growing.

And I think they underscore quite a shift in what people are looking for in Recovery Ireland. They want that name, that logo, out front. We're becoming auto-snobs.

And we're prepared to pay for the privilege. Here are some of the cars in demand now - remember many command prices of €100,000 or more.

The Mercedes S-Class, I mentioned, is running at 86 registrations so far this year - up from 65. The Range Rover Sport is at 112 compared with 65. BMW's X5 is at 283 v 168 for the corresponding period last year.

The overall figures probably better underline the shift to luxury. Audi have racked up 3,372 registrations thus far; a big increase on the 2,891 they managed in the relevant period in 2014.

Similarly BMW (2,856 v 2,526), Mercedes 1,811 v 1,399, Lexus 338 v 260, Jaguar 171 v 136. And did I mention Porsche 50 v 27? (All these figures are courtesy of SIMI).

It's not Tiger economy territory yet and it has to be borne in mind that sales are still coming off what was a disastrously low base a couple of years ago. Indeed, few, if any, big cars were sold for a few years.

For all that, though, the figures don't lie and are beginning to gain a critical mass. If, as expected, the levels of luxury/prestige car-buying continues, then it is fair to predict that more and more of us are no longer going to be wannabes but 'canabes' as cash and credit become more widely available.

Ireland looks like it intends recovering in some comfort.

Irish Independent

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