It’s looking very like the Germans got a bargain when they took over the rotting British big name brands and Lamborghini, which is now owned by Volkswagen. The big crash was the push over the edge for these British icons, and there were more than a few skeptics about the future of big luxury cars.
Sales of high-end cars, including Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW)’s namesake brand and Daimler AG (DAI)’s Mercedes-Benz, may in 2012 surpass the record set before the financial crisis damped demand, according to IHS Automotive. The market researcher forecasts sales for the segment in 2012 of 7.02 million cars, up 13 percent from last year’s 6.23 million and beating the previous record of 6.27 million set in 2007.
The luxury car culture is ingrained in the West, which in the past was building virtual stretch limo apartment blocks, but the big demand has also been building from the East. China was behind record sales for Rolls Royce in 2011, and a big spike in Maserati sales where the Italian car makers dodged a bullet or several from the crash. Apparently Russian billionaires don’t mind having a bit of added support after a hard day in the gulags, either. Middle East sales also went up 26% according to the Gulf Times
The car companies are still being cautious about their predictions for 2012, but you can hear the excitement. Russia and China could easily double the market range of these high cost products, and unless there’s another big crunch, you can expect to be deafened by more self-fulfilling marketing blurb about “brand power” for years to come.
Ironically, the sales of the big end brands have a very apt cultural side. Interestingly, China has banned the term “luxury” when referring to these top line brands, reports the LA Times
, because the expression is considered to be possibly “unharmonious with the people”.
So a communist country is more worried about upsetting the public with expressions of wealth than the West, where Nouveau Riche tastelessness is a virtual tautology for redneck crass?
My Anglo European background has an instinctive response to this: Let’s take the hint from the Chinese. You can put a pig in a Rolls or a Porsche, but it’s still a pig. Good luck to the people who’ve earned their luxury cars, but let’s remember, these brands were always intended to be signs of good taste, not mindless bling.