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Rolls-Royce, luxury car brands see insatiable buyer demand

While Wall Street and Main Street worry about a potential economic slowdown, the wealthy are acting anything but concerned, at least when it comes to splurging on high-end automobiles.

At the just wrapped Monterey–Pebble Beach Car Week, auction houses like RM Sotheby’s, Bonhams, and Gooding & Co. saw bidders splash out like never before. According to classic automobile insurer (and now auto and lifestyle firm) Hagerty, total auction sales for the week hit an astonishing $469 million, nearly $120 million over last year and over $70 million more than the Monterey all-time high hit in 2015.

It wasn’t just older cars that were gobbled up, however. Porsche took a brand new 911 GTS and styled it after Sally in the Pixar movie Cars and it sold for a whopping $3.6 million, with proceeds going to charity.

Rolls-Royce Motorcars (BMW.DE), which debuted the Phantom Series II sedan at Quail event in Carmel, revealed its order books are full and that buyers are still lining up for its cars, which start around $300,000 and go much higher from there.

Rolls-Royce Phantom Series II
Rolls-Royce Phantom Series II

“So far, we haven't seen any, let’s say, impacts" from global uncertainty, said Torsten Müller-Ötvös, Rolls-Royce Motorcars CEO in an interview with Yahoo Finance from the Quail. “So, no declines when it came to orders, our order bank is very strong — and if you order today, you'll probably take delivery Christmas next year. And so it is seriously interesting.”

In the past, Müller-Ötvös says any sort of economic uncertainty took sales of luxury goods, from cars to high end watches, down with it. Now he believes something has changed over the years that is fueling this appetite for consumption, despite economic jitters.

“Listening to our clients in that particularly after the pandemic, people thought, 'You only live once, and you better live now.' And there is that kind of appetite to enjoy life,” he said. “And I think enjoying life is for very affluent people also to do something special and to afford something that pleases your soul and is great to own.”

Lamborghini (VOW.DE) also reported full order books that go beyond a year out despite global jitters, as well as rival McLaren.

An Audi Grandsphere concept car is on display at the booth of German carmaker Audi at the International Motor Show (IAA) Germany, on September 8, 2021 in Munich, southern Germany. - Germany's revamped IAA auto show, one of the world's largest, is celebrating all things car-related, but climate concerns and pandemic woes threaten to spoil the party. (Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP) (Photo by TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP via Getty Images)
An Audi Grandsphere concept car is on display (Photo by TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP via Getty Images)

Even Lamborghini parent Audi is seeing strong demand for some of its exclusive concept cars, despite the fact that these cars don’t even exist in production form yet.

“The Grandsphere is probably the car which has the highest demand in the U.S. market, the center of the D [large car] segment where our customers would go for it,” says Daniel Weissland, Audi of America president in an interview with Yahoo Finance. “Again, we are just talking about concept cars,” he notes.

In the here and now, Audi is seeing big demand for EVs, even from customers at the higher end. “We are surprised how many people want to drive electric vehicles; we have a huge demand. If I listen to our dealers, like the Q4 e-tron, even before we brought it to the American market, it’s already sold out at least for this year and most of next year,” he said. “We see a huge acceleration for demand for electric cars.”

With out-of-this-world options like 12-cylinder hypercars, Ferrari race cars commanding $20 million auction values, or high-end electric cars from Audi — it seems the high net worth buyer has an embarrassment of riches.

Pras Subramanian is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter and on Instagram.

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