It's great for enthusiasts to revel in the flame-throwing Aston Martin Vulcan, the racing-inspired elegance of the Bentley EXP 10 Speed 6 concept and the insane performance of the Lamborghini Aventador LP 750-4 Superveloce, but there's a reason for all of this opulence: the luxury market is big business. And it's growing.
IHS Automotive forecasts that so-called ultra-premium sales will nearly triple this decade from 123,000 to 353,000 units around the world. The estimate includes brands like Aston Martin, Bentley, Ferrari and Rolls-Royce, but doesn't count BMW, Mercedes and Audi, which offer less expensive models in addition to their high-end flagships. Though IHS includes Porsche and its relatively large volume in the study, the ultra-premium segment is still set grow at about the same rate, even without the German automaker's figures.
So what is propelling all of this growth in the most expensive segment of the auto industry? Put simply, there's more rich people. IHS Automotive principal analyst Tim Urquhart pointed to economic expansion in China, market recovery in the United States and a surge in the lucrative technology sector as contributing factors. This dovetails with a research report by UK-based Oxfam, an international relief organization, which found the world's richest one-percent owned 48 percent of global wealth in 2014, and it's expected to increase to more than 50 percent by 2016.
Carmakers are moving quickly to capitalize with new products, expanding their portfolios with low-volume speedsters like the 800-hp V12 Vulcan at Geneva, and plans to enter new segments, like Rolls-Royce's strategy to make an SUV.
"Ultra-premium carmakers are looking to explore ways of growing their product offerings, and thus their bottom lines, in this most potentially profitable of segments," Urquhart wrote in a report on the Geneva show.
In a nutshell, there are more choices for people with more money. It's a good time to have expensive taste.
Other News & Notes
2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata production launches
It won't be long now. The 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata arrives later this year, and it's officially in production. Mazda announced this week that the roadster began rolling off the assembly line at its Ujina factory in Hiroshima, Japan. Sales are scheduled to begin in Japan "around June," and then Miatas will begin making their way to the US market later in the summer.
Mazda has sold more than 950,000 Miatas around the world since 1989, which is a Guinness World Record for two-seat sports cars. Mazda redesigned the fourth generation by making it shorter and lighter in a bid to capture the driving dynamics of the original car.
Redesigned Chevy Malibu set for New York debut
Chevrolet has redesigned the Malibu again, and the 2016 model will debut in a few weeks at the New York Auto Show. Chevy teased the sedan this week in a dark image, but served up some juicy details. The 'Bu will use a new platform that makes greater use of high-strength steel and helps the car shed 300 pounds compared with today's model. It also rides on a longer wheelbase that improves cabin space, Chevy said.
Though we can't tell from this teaser, General Motors vice president of design Ed Welburn said the new Malibu will make a design statement with a stretched roofline, sculpted sides and shorter overhangs front and rear. "These cues help Malibu appear more dynamic and sophisticated," he said in a news release.
The Malibu has been a problem child for Chevrolet the last few years. The 2013 resigned fell flat. Chevy rushed in another major update for 2014, and though it was received better, it still hasn't generated much buzz. Sales have dropped 11.7 percent through February this year, and they fell six percent in 2014.
GMC poised to expand product line
GMC is set to expand its product line and its advertising punch, sales and marketing vice president Duncan Aldred confirmed this week. The brand is getting considerable investment from General Motors to fund the expansion, similar to the influx Cadillac is receiving for its growth plans. GMC's advertising alone will increase 50 percent in 2015, and it's launching a new campaign called Precision. Aldred said GMC is considering adding small and midsize SUVs to round out its portfolio and allow it to reach more customers. He declined to confirm whether or not a Jeep Wrangler-fighter is in the works.