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Top marques for premiums

THE surge in sales of premium cars continues apace.

Worldwide, Bentley has bounced back to pre-recession levels of demand during 2011, with strong growth in all major markets. Globally, sales were up 37 per cent to 7,003 for the calendar year, with sales accelerating as the year progressed.

December sales were 1,059 (up 69 per cent on the same month in 2010), the best month since Bentley's pre-recession record of 2007 and the second best month ever.

More locally Audi and BMW finished in ninth and 10th place among top-selling marques here, with 19 per cent and 30 per cent increases respectively over 2010.

However, it was Hyundai, the marque that wants to be seen as "affordable premium", which did best last year, notching up 33 per cent extra sales to come in at eighth place with 4,011 sales.

Hyundai's impressive i40 is notching up a lot of converts but it is the game-changing, five-year triple-care plan that is making real headway for the Korean manufacturer. The company's coupe replacement called the Veloster is now available and an update i30 will be launched internationally next month. Toyota was the top marque in Ireland last year, closely followed by a surging Volkswagen -- with great sales for the new Passat -- which put Ford into third place. However, Ford's Focus was the top selling model.

Audi seems to be the hungriest of the traditional premium brands with aggressive marketing initiatives and formidable model range.

I was particularly impressed with the new Q3 model, which is nicely understated with all the good things of the SUV but comes over in a much more pleasant, scaled-down way.

Cars like the Q3 and the BMW X1 build on the massive success of the Nissan Qashqai, which singlehandedly created the "crossover" concept.

Campbell Spray

Sunday Independent