Sales of Rolls-Royce, Bentley and BMW rise as cheaper brands lag

BERLIN—Luxury car brands such as Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Porsche and BMW BMW -0.30%

saw record sales, thanks to customers craving them and manufacturers shoving rare chips into their most profitable models.

With international travel stalled during the pandemic and many flashy spending avenues closed to them, a younger generation of luxury car consumers went on a shopping spree last year.

Meanwhile, manufacturers facing semiconductor shortages have prioritized certain models.

“We are hardly affected by the chip shortage,” said Alain Favey, sales director at Bentley Motors Ltd., which is owned by German automaker Volkswagen. HER

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“The process in the VW group is very centralized. One of the elements to decide the allocation is the profitability margin. From that standpoint, we have priority, so we managed to get all the chips we needed,” Favey said.

Other types of manufacturers facing shortages of chips and other components have prioritized expensive products for similar reasons, making it harder for consumers to find cheaper alternatives.

Bentley sold 14,659 cars last year, a 31% increase over the previous year and a record for the company. Porsche, also owned by VW, sold 301,915 cars, an increase of 11% worldwide. Both brands recorded growth in the United States, Europe and China.

By comparison, VW’s eponymous brand, its largest unit-sales business, struggled throughout the year to keep its factories running due to chip shortages. The main factory in Wolfsburg was operating under capacity and had to lay off shifts throughout the year.

As a result, sales fell 8.1% to 4.9 million vehicles worldwide. Sales in China, the brand’s biggest single market, fell 14.8%.

VW’s mixed performance mirrors that of other mainstream automakers: While conventional hatchbacks, hatchbacks and station wagons languished, sport utility vehicles and new electric vehicles made big gains.

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In the United States, BMW increased sales by 21% as the top-selling luxury brand for the third consecutive year, with 336,644 vehicles sold. Toyota engine Body

Lexus came in second, selling 304,476 vehicles, up 11% from the previous year.

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was able to avoid some of the impacts of the chip shortage, and a full year of sales for its latest Model Y SUV helped boost global shipments by 87%. In the United States, Tesla outsold Mercedes-Benz,

which reported U.S. sales of 276,102 vehicles in 2021. Tesla does not break down its sales by region, but Ward’s Intelligence, a consulting firm, estimates that Tesla sold about 299,000 vehicles in the U.S. the year last.

Rolls-Royce, owned by Bayerische Motoren Werke HER

BMW -0.30%

, whose custom-built luxury cars have starting prices of more than $300,000, sold a record 5,586 cars last year, up 49% from the previous year.

Martin Fritsches, president of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Americas, said buyers of luxury cars like Rolls-Royce are younger today. The average age of a customer is around 43, which means that a large portion of their customer base is in their 30s.

In part, Mr Fritsches said, wealthy Rolls-Royce customers have been shielded from the hardships felt by many during the pandemic. They have benefited more from the economic recovery, the cryptocurrency boom and the surge in stock prices. And many buyers are first-time Rolls owners, he said, including young entrepreneurs who got rich on the stock market and cryptocurrencies.

Bentley sold 14,659 cars last year, a 31% increase over the previous year and a record for the company.


Photo:

Ali Haider/Shutterstock

New electric vehicles were another growth driver. BMW, which has fared better than many of its rivals in chip compression, sold 2.5 million vehicles last year, an increase of 8.4%. Of this total, the company sold 103,855 all-electric vehicles.

“Our goal for 2022 is to more than double sales of fully electric vehicles,” said BMW sales director Pieter Nota. He said BMW was well-stocked with chips throughout 2021 and thanks to new direct relationships with chipmakers, he expected to see it through 2022.

Mr Nota said the effects of the chip shortage were likely to continue to be felt in the first half of this year, but added that BMW’s efforts to mitigate the crisis through orders and direct relationships with chip vendors are expected to help mitigate the impact again this year.

Porsche said its electric sports sedan, the Taycan, sold the company’s iconic 911 sports car last year, marking a symbolic change as even Porsche customers begin to embrace electric cars.

IHS Markit,

a global industry consultant, forecasts new light vehicle sales will grow 3.7% this year to 82.4 million vehicles, up from 2.9% in 2021, when growth was limited by disruptions to the supply chain. He expects new light vehicle sales in the United States to rise about 2.6% this year to 15.5 million vehicles.

General Motors plans to phase out nearly all of its gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2035. The first all-electric Cadillac is leading this transition. The WSJ’s Mike Colias visited a GM test site for a tour and an exclusive interview with GM President Mark L. Reuss. Photo illustration: Alexandre Hotz

With the onset of the pandemic and widespread plant shutdowns in 2020, auto production fell about 16% from 2019 to 74.6 million vehicles, according to Wards Intelligence and LMC Automotive, consulting groups. advice. They said the auto industry clawed back some of that last year, with global production rising about 2% to 76.2 million vehicles. They predict global production will rebound 13% to 85.8 million vehicles this year, still below pre-pandemic levels.

Despite record sales, Mr Fritsches said Rolls-Royce will remain a small, intimate luxury brand focused on creating experiences for its customers. To attract younger customers, Rolls-Royce connects owners through an app called Whispers, which you can only access if you actually own a Rolls-Royce.

“Our customers are looking for a tailored experience,” Fritsches said. “I can assure you that volume is not and never will be a priority topic for us.”

Write to William Boston at [email protected]

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