Friday 23 March 2018

Luxury car makers gear up for bumper sales next year

Mercedes S-Class
Mercedes S-Class

CAMPBELL SPRAY Motoring Editor

THE must-have motor of the boom years -- the X5 -- is back with a vengeance.

Sales of the latest version of the BMW favourite are soaring alongside those of other SUVs and luxury cars.

Nearly all car importers are reporting that customers have been flooding back to the showrooms but some of the fullest order books are those of the premium manufacturers -- BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Land Rover.

The massive new Range Rover has been an instant success with highly specced Vogue models selling at around €145,000. Many dealers are reporting that sales of prestige models are at least double what they predicted.

Mercedes-Benz is forecasting a 45 per cent increase in sales, with a lot of these coming from younger owners now being catered for the first time with a range of sportier models based around the new A-Class. But at the other end of the scale the company has already sold out its allocation of 60-70 units of the new S-Class, with many owners prepared to pay €105-110,000 for the car that comes laden with comfort and safety features. "There's a quiet confidence out there we are almost afraid to speak about," says Ciaran Allen, the Mercedes-Benz marketing director.

"At the higher end customers who have abstained for the last four or five years are now making their moves and taking advantage of the lower price of the new fuel-efficient cars."

Globally, says Ciaran, the major growth area is in compact luxury cars, with compact SUVs sales to double.

Meanwhile, Land Rover has had a strong year with just under a thousand units sold. At the luxury end of the market, 95 per cent of the Range Rover sales have been the Vogue spec. Its sister brand, Jaguar, is also having a boom time with 60 per cent of its sales for its bestselling XF model in Luxury and Premium Luxury specs.

BMW Ireland is heading into 2014 with enthusiasm "derived from a distinct improvement in consumer confidence, a much stronger order book and the increased popularity of our financial services products among our customers", says Michael Nugent, marketing director. The eagerly awaited BMW 4 Series Coupe is selling at twice the level they predicted, as is the new X5 SUV.

Within BMW's large model mix it has orders for larger engines and heavier specification, which is a further sign of an improvement in sentiment in the market.

Mr Nugent says that the opportunity afforded by the second registration plate mid-year should have a bigger impact on sales as it becomes clearer that we are finally coming out of the bottom of our economic troubles.

At Audi, which holds an impressive growing share of the overall car market, the order book is up a healthy 28 per cent and it expects to gain new customers with its new A3 saloon.

Among the major brands, Volkswagen has an order book up 50 per cent. "Dealers are very positive heading into 2014," said Volkswagen Ireland's operations director Paul Burke. "Golf has been a huge success for us and will be in 2014 again, but we are also seeing a dramatic improvement in orders for models like the Tiguan and performance models like the Golf GTI, GTD and Golf R."

Meanwhile, over at Skoda, with an order book up a healthy 30 per cent, new head of sales Alicia O'Connor told the Sunday Independent that they were noticing a resurgence in the sales of petrol models and the humble estate car. Seat director Cian O'Brien points to an order book up 32 per cent and, like Skoda, a keen interest in more lifestyle orientated vehicles.

The success story of last year was Hyundai, with the Korean manufacturer shooting to fourth place in the overall car market. However, its orders for the new year are already ahead of last year.

According to Stephen Gleeson, Hyundai Ireland's managing director: "We expect to have an overall sales increase for January in the order of 30 per cent. With all Hyundai factories operating at virtually 100 per cent capacity, the challenge will be to maintain this growth for all of 2014." There is especial interest in the new version of their small car the i10.

According to Sarah Hayes, Hyundai Ireland's marketing manager: "Despite the fact that the new i10 has not yet arrived in dealer showrooms, customer interest and orders taken for the new i10 to date gives us the confidence to expect that we can double our i10 sales in 2014."

Despite the filling orders books Eddie Murphy, chairman and managing director of Ford of Ireland, says that "without a doubt, 2014 will be another tough year for car sales in Ireland. Having said that, I do think that we are in a slightly better place than we were this time last year. The early Budget has had a beneficial effect this year in that people had a bit more planning time and certainty about their finances. Thus, anyone who was even remotely thinking of changing their car knew well ahead of the usual budget date in December where they stood financially."

Suzanne Sheridan for the Society of Irish Motoring Industry says that while it is too early to tell exactly how January will pan out, it's expected to be much improved on January this year.

"With the jobs market showing improvement and the property market bottoming out, we are hopeful that consumer confidence will begin to improve in 2014. In addition, we've seen a small improvement in the sale of vans which is a good barometer for activity in the small business sector in Ireland."

Irish Independent

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