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Rolls-Royce, Bentley, BMW sales increase as cheaper brands lag behind




BERLIN — Luxury car brands such as Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Porsche and BMW BMW -0.30%

has reported record sales, thanks to customers who have wanted them and manufacturers who have targeted scarce chips at their most profitable models.

With international travel stopped during the pandemic and many roads with flashy spending closed to them, a young generation of luxury car consumers went on a shopping trip last year.

Meanwhile, manufacturers facing semiconductor shortages are prioritizing certain models.

“We are hardly affected by the chip shortage,” said Alain Favey, sales manager at Bentley Motors Ltd., which is owned by German carmaker Volkswagen. AG

.

“The process in the VW group is very centralized. One of the elements for determining allocation is the profitability margin. From that perspective, we are prioritized, so we managed to get all the chips we needed, said Mr. Favey.

Other types of manufacturers who have a shortage of chips and other components have prioritized large ticket products for similar reasons, making it more difficult for consumers to find cheaper alternatives.

Bentley sold 1[ads1]4,659 cars last year, an increase of 31% from the previous year and a record for the company. Porsche, also owned by VW, sold 301,915 cars, an increase of 11% worldwide. Both brands had growth in the US, Europe and China.

In comparison, VW’s namesake, its largest business measured in unit sales, struggled throughout the year to keep factories in operation due to chip shortages. The main plant in Wolfsburg worked under capacity and had to scrap shifts throughout the year.

As a result, sales hit 8.1% to 4.9 million vehicles worldwide. Sales in China, the brand’s largest single market, fell 14.8%.

VW’s mixed performance reflects that of other mass market manufacturers: While conventional sedans, station wagons and station wagons disappeared, sports cars and new electric vehicles made big gains.

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In the US, BMW increased sales by 21% as the best-selling luxury brand for the third year in a row, selling 336,644 cars. Toyota Motor Corp.’s

Lexus came in second, selling 304,476 cars, or 11% more than the year before.

Tesla Inc.

TSLA 1.75%

managed to circumvent some of the effects of the chip shortage, and a full year of sales for its latest Model Y SUV helped increase global deliveries by 87%. In the US, Tesla sold more than Mercedes-Benz,

which reported sales in the United States of 276,102 vehicles in 2021. Tesla does not distribute sales by region, but Ward’s Intelligence, a consulting firm, estimates that Tesla sold around 299,000 vehicles in the United States last year.

Rolls Royce is owned by Bavarian Motor Works AG

BMW -0.30%

, whose bespoke super-luxury cars have starting prices of more than $ 300,000, sold a record 5,586 cars last year, up 49% from the previous year.

Martin Fritsches, president of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Americas, said buyers of super-luxury cars like Rolls-Royce are younger today. The average age of a customer is about 43 years old, which means that many of their clients are in their 30s.

In part, Mr. Fritsche said, Rolls-Royce’s wealthy customers have been shielded from the hardships many have experienced during the pandemic. They earned more from the economic upswing, the cryptocurrency boom and soaring stock prices. And many of the buyers are first-time owners of Rolls, he said, including young entrepreneurs who became rich in the stock market and cryptocurrencies.

Bentley sold 14,659 cars last year, an increase of 31% from the previous year and a record for the company.


Photo:

ali Haider / Shutterstock

New electric cars were another driving force for growth. BMW, which outperformed many of its chip-squeezing rivals, sold 2.5 million vehicles last year, an increase of 8.4%. Of the total, the company sold 103,855 all-electric vehicles.

“Our goal for 2022 is to more than double the sales of all-electric vehicles,” said Pieter Nota, BMW’s sales manager. He said that BMW was well supplied with chips through 2021, and through new direct relationships with chip manufacturers, he expected to recover through 2022.

Mr. Nota said the effects of the chip shortage are likely to continue to be felt in the first half of this year, but added that BMW’s efforts to stem the crisis through orders and direct relationships with chip suppliers should help ease the impact again this year.

Porsche said that the electric, sporty sedan, Taycan, sold out the company’s iconic 911 sports car last year, and marked a symbolic shift when even Porsche customers begin to embrace electric cars.

IHS Markit,

a global industrial consultant, estimates that sales of new light vehicles will increase by 3.7% this year to 82.4 million vehicles, up from 2.9% in 2021 when growth was limited by supply chain disruptions. It expects sales of new light vehicles in the US to increase by around 2.6% this year to 15.5 million vehicles.

General Motors plans to phase out almost all of its gas and diesel vehicles by 2035. The first all-electric Cadillac is leading this transition. WSJ’s Mike Colias visited a GM test site for a tour and an exclusive interview with GM President Mark L. Reuss. Photo illustration: Alexander Hotz

With the outbreak of the pandemic and extensive factory shutdown in 2020, car production fell by about 16% from 2019 to 74.6 million vehicles, according to Wards Intelligence and LMC Automotive, consulting firm groups. They said the car industry took back some of this last year, with global production rising around 2% to 76.2 million vehicles. They predicted that global production would rise by 13% to 85.8 million vehicles this year, still below pre-pandemic levels.

Despite record sales, Mr. Fritsches said Rolls-Royce will remain a small, intimate luxury brand with a focus on creating experiences for its customers. To appeal to younger customers, Rolls-Royce connects owners through an app called Whispers, which you can only access if you actually own a Rolls-Royce.

“Our customers are looking for the bespoke experience,” said Mr. Fritsches. “I can guarantee you that volume is not and will never be a focus issue for us.”

Write to William Boston at william.boston@wsj.com

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