BERLIN—Luxury car brands such as Rolls-Royce, Bentley,
have reported record sales, thanks to customers who have craved them and manufacturers that have directed scarce chips toward their most profitable models.
With international travel stalled during the pandemic and many avenues of flashy spending closed to them, a young generation of luxury-car consumers went on a shopping spree last year.
Meanwhile, manufacturers facing shortages of semiconductors prioritized certain models.
“We are hardly affected by the chip shortage,” said
sales chief at Bentley Motors Ltd., which is owned by German auto maker
“The process in the VW group is very centralized. One of the elements to decide on allocation is the margin of profitability. From that perspective we are prioritized, so we managed to get all of the chips we needed,” Mr. Favey said.
Other types of manufacturers dealing with a shortage of chips and other components have given priority to big-ticket products for similar reasons, making it harder for consumers to find cheaper alternatives.
Bentley sold 14,659 cars last year, an increase of 31% from the year before and a record for the company. Porsche, also owned by VW, sold 301,915 cars, an increase of 11% world-wide. Both brands posted growth in the U.S., Europe, and China.
By comparison, VW’s namesake brand, its biggest business by unit sales, struggled throughout the year to keep its factories operating because of the chip shortage. The main plant in Wolfsburg worked under capacity and had to scrap shifts throughout the year.
As a result, sales took a hit, falling 8.1% to 4.9 million vehicles world-wide. Sales in China, the brand’s largest single market, dropped 14.8%.
VW’s mixed performance reflects that of other mass-market manufacturers: While conventional sedans, hatchbacks and station wagons languished, sport-utility vehicles and new electric vehicles made big gains.
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In the U.S., BMW grew sales by 21% as the top-selling luxury brand for the third year in a row, selling 336,644 vehicles.
Toyota Motor Corp.’s
Lexus came in second, selling 304,476 vehicles, or 11% more than the previous year.