Ultra-luxury automakers see slower growth ahead image

A few weeks ago, luxury automakers thrived during the economic crisis, posting record sales even in Europe’s troubled markets.

It seems that clouds are now gathering over them as well, as Ferrari, Bentley and Lamborghini announced they are preparing for slower growth.

The European debt crisis has started to affect demand even for very expensive automobiles. However, ultra-luxury nameplates aren’t nowhere near as affected as volume manufacturers such as Fiat and PSA Peugeot Citroen.

“We have a very volatile product. Our customers buy this product not because they need mobility, but because they want a dream fulfilled. So if it’s not the right time — even if they have the money — they might not buy it,” Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann was quoted as saying by Bloomberg.

With 26,000 ultra-luxury cars sold last year, the market is still 25 percent below its pre-crisis peak, Winkelmann added. Fellow VW Group brand Bentley forecasts a growth of 5 percent to 6 percent globally next year for ultra-luxury cars. That is way below the 32 percent increase in sales recorded by Bentley in the first half of the year, when it sold 3,929 units.

Even Ferrari is starting to worry, as the Prancing Horse is seeking to increase deliveries in China and the U.S. to offset weaker markets such as Italy. „Our key markets, Germany and the U.K., are doing well, Italy not, of course. We have to push in the U.S., Asia and the Middle East, where demand is still strong,” said Ferrari chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo.