Americans may be feeling uneasy about the economy, but if sales of ultra-luxury cars are any indication, the super rich are doing just fine. Both Rolls-Royce and Bentley posted record sales in 2021.
Last year, Rolls-Royce delivered 5,586 cars around the world, the most cars Rolls-Royce has ever sold in one year in its 117-year history. Bentley also set a record, selling 14,659 cars and SUVs last year. That was an increase of 31% over the year before.
In raw numbers, sales figures this small would be a sign of abject failure for a mainstream brand or even for most luxury car brands. But for automakers that offer products like the $455,000 Rolls-Royce Phantom or the $200,000 Bentley Flying Spur, the more than 20,000 cars combined represent historic success.
But the sales bonanza isn’t limited to those who offer plush, cushy rides. Lamborghini hasn’t reported its annual sales for 2021 yet, but in a December interview, CEO Stephan Winkelmann said sales were on track for a banner year.
“This year is already higher than the best year ever,” he said.
In the US, the brand’s biggest market, Lamborghini delivered 2,472 vehicles last year, an 11% increase from 2020.
Both Bentley and Lamborghini are part of the Volkswagen Group.
There had been clues that the pandemic wasn’t going to hurt business for these manufacturers. Lamborghini and Rolls-Royce both had record years back in 2019. The pandemic disrupted production for a while in 2020, but once factories got running, ultra-luxury automakers closed out 2020 with strong fourth quarter sales. Bentley even managed a record for the full year in 2020 despite a seven-week factory shutdown. That record was surpassed this year.
Christophe Georges, president and CEO of Bentley, attributed the record year in 2021, in part, to a strong economic resurgence and low interest rates, factors that have increased auto demand overall. Some new model variants also helped, though.
Given the small sales numbers, one new model, or even new versions of models, can have a huge impact on sales in the ultra-luxury market. Rolls-Royce’s sales were helped by the fact that last year was the first full year of production for the redesigned Rolls-Royce Ghost sedan. With a starting price just over $300,000, it’s considered to be a more practical and affordable alternative to the huge Phantom. Rolls-Royce also introduced a Black Badge version of the Ghost, a color and trim option with blackened chrome elements including the grille and the Spirit of Ecstasy statuette above it. Black Badge versions have proven to be popular with younger Rolls-Royce buyers.
Bentley, meanwhile, credited much of its success to a new hybrid option. Twenty percent of all Bentley Bentayga SUVs sold, the brand’s most popular model, were the hybrid introduced last year. Bentayga sales were up 48% compared to 2020. Sales of Bentley’s sedan model, the Flying Spur, rose 88% thanks to the introduction of a less expensive version with a V8 engine in addition to the 12-cylinder that it had been available with before.
It isn’t just new models, though. Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Lamborghini noted increased interest across multiple model lines. SUVs are particularly popular and also bring new customers who then peruse other products to add to their extra-roomy garages.
“The demand is rising,” said Lamborghini’s Winkelmann. “And especially, via the Urus [SUV] customers, we have first approaches also to the super sports cars.”
Both Rolls-Royce and Lamborghini claim to have orders for cars they will be building well into this year. In this end of the market, cars are usually built to specific customer orders and buyers often wait weeks or months for them to be ready.
Besides having a record year for sales numbers, Rolls-Royce also claimed a record year for average price. That figure includes an extreme example, though. The Rolls-Royce Boat Tail, of which only three are being made, reportedly cost about $25 million each.
Bentley’s Georges said he expects 2022 to continue to be strong. The company will continue to have more model variants such as a hybrid version of the Flying Spur sedan. The economy, also, seems likely to continue to do well in the new year, he said.
“But then we don’t know,” he said. “We don’t have a crystal ball.”