Automakers such as Ferrari, Aston Martin and Bentley are poised to continue profiting from rising European demand for their high-priced supercars and limousines.
This year in Europe — the world’s largest market for a sector Automotive News Europe classifies as exotic — overall sales are on track to reach 12,980, up from 10,677 in 2016, according to analyst LMC Automotive. European sales of cars such as the Ferrari 488, the best-seller in the exotic segment, and the second-ranked Aston DB11, will rise to 14,800 in 2020 — a 38 percent increase on last year — LMC predicts.
The sales surge is being fueled by the worldwide growth in the number of ultra-high net-worth buyers. “The total number of billionaires has doubled since 2010,” said Felipe Munoz, global analyst for JATO Dynamics. The rich are currently being fed by a steady flow of new models, more so than is usual in a segment where the high cost of developing replacement versions traditionally has meant life cycles are longer than in the rest of industry.
Aston Martin has seen European sales rise 103 percent in the first four months because of the arrival of the new DB11 coupe last year. The DB11’s debut also helped end Aston Martin’s chronic financial losses as the company closed the first quarter with its first profit since former Nissan executive Andy Palmer took over as CEO in 2014.
In addition, the British brand will launch the replacement for its lowest priced model, the Vantage, in the fourth quarter, and it has just announced sales of the new V-8 version of the DB11, the first Aston to be powered by the engine supplied by Daimler’s AMG high-performance division. A convertible version of the DB11 arrives next spring followed later in the year by the new Vanquish high-performance coupe. The push to update and expand the portfolio will continue in 2019 with the arrival of the DBX crossover and in 2021 with a mid-engine coupe.
Aston Martin rival Bentley will reveal its new Continental GT coupe at the Frankfurt auto show in September, reports in the British press say. The car is expected to be based on the Porsche-developed MSB platform, and will replace a car that for years was Bentley’s best-seller. That streak was ended in 2016 by the arrival of the Bentayga SUV. Bentley sold 11,298 cars last year, up 6.4 percent on the year before, and made a 112 million euro profit.
McLaren Automotive has consistently refreshed its range since establishing itself as a direct competitor to Ferrari in 2009. The British brand unveiled the new 720S supercar, a rival to Ferrari’s 488, at this year’s Geneva auto show as part of its Track22 plan to launch 15 all-new cars or derivatives by 2022, with help from an investment pool of 1 billion pounds (1.13 billion euros). McLaren’s European sales of 248 units in the first four months of 2017 represented a 148 percent rise on the year before. McLaren has posted three straight years of profit.
Ferrari is a supercar maker that has consistently made money over the last two decades. Its success continued in the first quarter as the brand increased its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) 36 percent to 242 million euros. Ferrari has also abandoned its self-imposed cap of selling 7,000 cars a year. It aims to sell 9,000 by 2019. Through April, Ferrari was the best-selling exotic brand in Europe with sales of 1,223 supercars, a 7 percent increase on the year before. The biggest global market for cars in the exotic segment is the UK, which in the first four months accounted for 2,113 sales in this category, up 31 percent on the year before, according to JATO data. Germany was second with 1,460 sales and Switzerland ranked third with 387. Last year the UK even beat China for sales of exotic cars.
Many of the ultra-luxury sports car brands are also branching out into limited-edition vehicles, sometimes costing well over 1 million euros. Aston Martin, for example, is working on the Valkyrie with the Red Bull Formula One team. When it goes on sale mid-2019 the Valkyrie will cost 2.2 million pounds (2.5 million euros). Buyers partly see it as an investment opportunity. “This car will not depreciate,” Aston Martin Chief Financial Officer Mark Wilson said at the Geneva auto show in March.
McLaren has seen values soar for its P1 hypercar, which is now out of production. “That was an 860,000 pound car. It’s now selling for 1.5 million pounds,” Jolyon Nash, McLaren’s head of sales and marketing, said at the Geneva show. McLaren is now working on a three-seat sports car that will be limited to 106 units and will sell for 2 million pounds each.
The trick is not to get too greedy. Said Nash: “In this business you need to keep supply low.”