BIG luxury brand sales are holding up best in the recession as the middle marques fall off. Sales of executive cars took a larger share of the new car market despite the depressed state of the motor trade. Sales in this segment are up from 12.4 per cent to 14.1 per cent for the period to the end of September, which accounts for 85 per cent of total annual business.
The increase comes as top-end car sales remained static as the market dipped sharply at the expense of the mid-range bread-and-butter models.
Latest figures show overall sales are down from 87,163 last year to 76,760 -- a decline of 12.1 per cent.
Audi, with 3,500 sales, is up 8 per cent on last year, BMW, with 3,300 sales, is up 2 per cent, Land Rover/Range Rover, with 479 sales, is up 18 per cent, and Jaguar, with 402 sales, is up 61 per cent.
Dropping market share is Mercedes Benz, with 1,750 sales, down 7 per cent, Volvo, with 1,111 sales, down 10 per cent, and Lexus, with 402 sales, is down 40 per cent. Companies like Audi and BMW benefit by having money on tap from their own banks.
Michael Nugent, sales and marketing manager of BMW Ireland, explains why top-range models are holding their own, "There is better value for money in terms of price, combined with new higher specification. Running costs are also lower with more fuel-efficient engines and residual values are better. Middle range cars are suffering. There is a market for the cheap and cheerful. Top-of-the-range models are seen as a good investment."
In the premium sector, personal purchases accounts for 60 per cent of sales which Mr Nugent believes is due to high benefit-in-kind penalties with just 40 per cent going through corporate and company accounts.
Speaking at the launch of new and facelift BMW models, Mr Nugent gave an optimistic forecast for 2013, predicting sales of 80,000 new cars at a time when most analysts are suggesting sales will reach a new low of 75,000 units amid fears of hikes in fuel and household charges. He sees the change in the number plate format as progressive, as in other countries it has acted as an incentive to register a new car, resulting in up to 6 per cent sales increases.
New to the BMW range is a Touring version of the 3 Series. The 320D ranges in price from €42,000 to €51,900 and is capable of returning 5.1L/100kms (55 mpg).
A three-door version of the 1 Series 116D Sports Hatch is also on offer at prices ranging from €31,760 to €36,600, which BMW say is capable of returning 5.5L/100kms (51.4 mpg). The 7 Series with prices stating at €88,000 gets a facelift as does the X1 XDrive 1.8 Sport five-door model with a price tag of €40,310.
The 520D MSport GT is priced at €57,800 and is capable of 4.5L/100kms (62.8 mpg) while the 6 Series Grand Coupe is the first-ever four -door coupe in the BMW range.