The upper echelons of the Australian passenger car segment appear to be undergoing a quiet renaissance, with sales of luxury 'upper large' sedans more than doubling this year.
A glance at the industry sales figures will show you that sales of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, for instance, have quadrupled in 2014, that Maserati’s large sedans (new Ghibli and Quattroporte) are up sixteen-fold, Bentley sedan (Mulsanne and Flying Spur) volume is up more than 400 per cent and that the Audi A8 has experienced growth of 83 per cent.
Let’s be realistic: it is rarefied air indeed in the Upper Large > $100K segment, with only 912 units delivered across 10 brands for the entire year.
At least it seems that way, until you notice that at the same time in 2013, only 430 units got their plates. In fact, the 2014 figure is the highest ten-monthly number since 2007, when 1144 units were registered.
This means that while all the talk in 2014 has been about how well premium European brands are doing with their conquest-focused small cars and SUVs, it appears that things at the other end of the spectrum are just as healthy — if not in volume, then at least in proportional terms.
This is even more intriguing when you consider that sales of sub-$100K upper large sedans, as well as sedans classified merely as large in the sub-$70K and above $70K segment alike, have all fallen in 2014. Uber-luxury limos are defying an established pattern.
Of course, a big sales boost here has to be somewhat expected, when you consider the unusually thorough model turnover we have seen at the big end of town inside the last 12 months.
Australia received the latest Bentley Flying Spur in October 2013, the new-generation S-Class in November 2013, a staggered Maserati Quattroporte launch commenced in December 2013, the upgraded Audi A8 arrived in May, and the Maserati Ghibli (classified in this segment although it is marketed against the smaller BMW 5 Series) arrived in August.
It is not hard to see how the segment experience a sales bounce, though a doubling of sales is a sizeable bounce, one matched by no other market segment, volume or niche alike.
Leading the segment is the S-Class with 293 sales this year, compared to just 66 at the same point in 2013. The Maserati Quattroporte and Ghibli combined have 248 sales, compared to 15 Quattroporte sales last year. These two brands have been the segment’s engine room.
The BMW 7 Series, meanwhile, remains on the podium with 103 sales, 10 more than at the same time in 2013. The upgraded Audi A8 has made up some ground to its Bavarian foe, with 75 sales in 2014 compared to 41 this time last year.
Two key players — in terms of brand cache if not outright volume — have kept steady. The Porsche Panamera has managed the same 73 deliveries this year as it did at this time in 2013, while Rolls-Royce is likewise tracking at an unchanged figure, in this case 11 units.
Not every entrant has experienced growth. The Jaguar XJ has dropped 22 per cent to 40 units YTD, while the ageing Lexus LS is down almost 60 per cent to 27 units. Both the XJ and LS were ahead of the Audi A8 this time last year…