Slower growth for ultra luxury cars

While ultra-luxury car brands have not shared the the negative impact of the economic downturn with mass market car brands like Fiat, Peugeot Citroen, demand for cars costing more than 100,000 euros ($130,000) has been stable mostly due to emerging markets, yet the growth has slowed down.

Competition is set to increase too. BMW plans to roll out the i8 hybrid sportster in 2014, a year after Porsche introduces the 918 Spyder, an $845,000 limited-run plug-in hybrid supercar. Porsche last week said that it will build fewer than the 155,000 cars and sport-utility vehicles originally planned for next year.


PORSCHE Panamera Sport Turismo, unveiled at Paris Motor Show 2012


”We have a very volatile product,” Stephan Winkelmann, the head of Lamborghini, said in a Bloomberg Television interview at the Paris Motor Show. “Our customers buy this product not because they need mobility, but because they want a dream fulfilled. So if it’s not the right time — even if they have the money — they might not buy it.”  With about 26,000 ultra-luxury vehicles sold last year, the market remains about 25 percent below its pre-crisis peak, according to Winkelmann. The recovery will drag on as the debt crisis widens into a broader slowdown. Bentley forecast growth for the pinnacle of the automotive market of 5 percent to 6 percent globally next year.

“Generally, the global ultra-luxury car market is more resilient than the volume segment, but in extreme crisis it also gets affected,” said Arndt Ellinghorst, a London-based analyst with Credit Suisse Group AG. “The ultra-luxury carmakers will profit in the next years from growth in emerging markets, which they started to develop only in the last five years.”

Citing deteriorating business in Europe, Daimler last week said operating profit at its Mercedes cars division will fall this year, lowering a previous target of steady earnings.

McLaren Automotive debuted the P1 supercar, the successor to the F1, which was the fastest road car in the world in 1998. McLaren aims to double sales to 3,000 vehicles by 2016 as it adds at least three models or variants, Managing Director Antony Sheriff said. The carmaker, famed for its Formula One racing arm, will also extend its dealer network to between 70 and 100 from the current 38 in that timeframe. The P1 will start at around 700,000 pounds ($1.13 million), he added.

Still, the segment is far from in free fall. Demand from China and the U.S. will help Ferrari report near record profit and sales levels this year, Chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo said in a Paris interview.  “Our key markets — Germany and the U.K. — are doing well, Italy not, of course,” Montezemolo said. “We have to push” in the U.S., Asia and the Middle East, where demand is still strong.