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Bentley sales are down thanks to ‘emotional sensitivity,’ CEO says

CNN  —  After four consecutive years of sales growth, sales of ultra-expensive Bentley cars and SUVs were down 11% last year. Bentley chief executive Adrian Hallmark, in a presentation to reporters, blamed “a level of emotional sensitivity” among the brand’s wealthy clientele. In particular, Bentley buyers were sensitive about high interest rates, a Bentley spokesperson explained later. Thirty percent of customers leased Bentleys last year, a figure that was “up significantly” compared to 2022, the spokesperson explained. This indicates that even rich buyers were sensitive to monthly payments on a purchased car. In general, monthly car payments have reached record levels in recent months as high interest rates attempt to ease inflation. In the fourth quarter of 2023, the average monthly payment on a new vehicle in the United States was $739 on a 68-month loan, according to Monthly payments for cars like Bentleys, which have a sticker price of $200,000 at a minimum, can be much higher. Customers will often lease, rather than purchase a vehicle, to keep monthly payments down. In a lease, the customer pays a monthly fee based on the amount the vehicle loses in value by the time the lease ends, with fees and interest. The average 36 month lease payment for a Bentley Bentayga SUV, the brand’s most popular model, is around $4,250, according to the auto website The Lamborghini Revuelto Opera Unica, a customized Lamborghini Revuelto plug-in hybrid supercar. Courtesy Lamborghini Related article The super-rich are buying more ultra-customized Rolls-Royces and Lamborghinis Bentley sold 13,560 cars and SUVs last year, which was down 11% from 2022. Bentley’s sales figures are tiny compared even to more mainstream luxury brands like Audi — both are owned by the Volkswagen Group — which sold 1.9 million vehicles globally last year. Still, Bentley sells more cars than costlier brands like Rolls-Royce, which sold just over 6,000 vehicles last year. That was an all-time record for Rolls-Royce cars priced at a minimum of around $350,000. Evidently, not all ultra-luxury car buyers were quite so sensitive. Bentley’s corporate relative, Lamborghini, another VW Group brand, also had an all-time record year last year, selling more than 10,000 vehicles for the first time in its history. Lamborghini also earned a record profit of €723 million, or about $789 million. Demand for these very expensive cars seems to be increasing, Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann said, in interview with CNN, partly because the sheer number of ultra-wealthy people in the world keeps increasing. “There is a trend in this direction,” he said, “which is positive, also, for the brand, Lamborghini.” Ferrari also earned a record profit of €1.26 billion euros, or $1.36 billion, last year, an increase of 34% from 2022. Ferrari sold 13,663 cars last year. Bentley is somewhat different from these brands, though, in that a Bentley is more likely to be an owner’s regular car for daily use whereas a Lamborghini or Rolls-Royce is more likely for special occasions or purely for fun. Although Bentley sold fewer cars last year than the year before, and made 17% less total profit, customers tended toward the more expensive models, the company said. Far more customers purchased more opulently outfitted, or even fully customized, vehicles than last year.