Ultra-Luxury Cars Are Ultra-Popular With the Ultra-Rich

Source: Mercedes

If you look at the price tag on a new Rolls-Royce, the fact that you could buy a house for as much or less might make it hard to understand who would buy one. Personally, I would argue that you can live in a car, and you can’t drive a house, but oh well. That’s not exactly the point.

The point is that, for most people, cars are about getting from point A to point B reliably and comfortably. They might be willing to spend $35,000 on a loaded Honda Accord, but $350,000 for a Rolls-Royce Dawn is incomprehensible not only because of the high price but also because they view cars as transportation. If you drive a Rolls-Royce Dawn to the grocery store, you’ll be just as much at the store as the person who drove his BMW 5 Series or even his Ford Fiesta.

Despite how hard it can be for the typical person to imagine buying such expensive cars, at the same time, these companies wouldn’t exist if people weren’t buying their products. As it turns out, though, people are buying a lot more of these products than you might think.

As AutoNews reports, people who have money are spending more of it on high-end autos, and they’re spending it on a lot more of them. These aren’t your typical stodgy, affluent car buyers anymore, either. They’re young, flush with new money, and looking for something a little different.

“There is a lot of new wealth out there today,” agrees Gorden Wagener, Daimler AG’s global vice president of design. “People are looking for good places to invest their money, and we are asking, ‘What more can we do to fulfill that desire for luxury?'”

After killing off its Maybach brand a few years ago due to low sales, Daimler has seen enough of an increase in demand for extremely high-end automobiles that it’s reviving the nameplate for 2016 as the Mercedes-Maybach S600, a nearly-$200,000 version of the already expensive Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

Rolls-Royce Ghost Series II, LondonPhotograph: James Lipman +44 7803 885275
Source: Rolls-Royce

Rolls-Royce has also seen a shift in who buys its cars.

“We are attracting a new customer,” says Gerry Spahn, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars’ North America spokesman. “We’re seeing a change in our customer profile, from people in their 60s to people in their 40s. They want something new from us. New interiors and more vibrant colors.”

The Wraith and even the Ghost are currently filling that niche, but Rolls-Royce has also just unveiled a new convertible related to the Wraith called the Dawn. In even bigger news, there’s also a Rolls-Royce SUV coming soon, as well.

“We’re in a new era,” says Eric Lawrence, director of specialty products for Black Book. “It’s not Frank Sinatra in 1965 with a gorgeous Cadillac – it’s the new-money guys. It’s the athletes. The guys in the entertainment business, the Wall Street people, the tech company people who are suddenly worth $300 million. They’ve suddenly made a lot of money, and they want to spend it suddenly.”

Part of this trend can be attributed to the rise of social media as an important part of pop culture. The rich are looking for attention and likes through apps like Instagram, and that means posting photos of their cars, showing off the unique features of a particular car, and posing with them in unique locations or while doing unique things.

“A new car culture is taking over,” Lawrence says. “And if I were planning models for the future, I’d be looking for ways to bottle it up. Have a more over-the-top option list. Don’t be afraid to make a car that’s expensive. There will be enough buyers for it.”

A lot of articles have been written in the past few years about the death of car culture in America, but as brands like Aston Martin, Bentley, Maserati, and Rolls-Royce are seeing, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Those who have money are even more interested in spending it on cars than they have been in the past, and it’s forcing ultra-luxury manufacturers to adapt.

For the rest of us, though, it’s back to paying off student loans and waiting around for used prices on the current Mazda3 to drop under $10,000.

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