Super-luxury market unaffected by war, economy

The global market for expensive super-luxury cars has not been affected by the war in Iraq, fear of terrorist attacks or the widespread economic downturn.

The new cars from Rolls-Royce, Maybach and Bentley are already sold out beyond the year 2003.

Buyers are being forced to wait up to a year for delivery of a new Rolls-Royce Phantom, which costs 371,200 euros in Germany.

"The first year's production is already sold out," said Roll-Royce spokesman Friedrich Fruth. "We have hundreds of firm orders."

Only three Phantoms a day are currently being built at the new Rolls-Royce plant in Goodwood, England. Fruth acknowledged that this is "a slightly slower pace" than was originally expected.

Roll-Royce expects to build 700 to 800 Phantoms this year. There have been problems at some suppliers and quality is of the utmost priority, said Fruth.

In Germany, Rüdiger Czakert, manager of Auto-König in Munich, has already sold 10 Phantoms. Bremen-based dealer Tamsen has also sold "a double-digit amount."

"There's no crisis, as far as we're concerned," said a Tamsen spokesman.

Both German dealers are sharing just one single demonstration car. They are expecting to make their first customer deliveries in June.

The new Rolls-Royce is also in demand in Switzerland, which needs to sell just two more units to meet its allocation of Phantoms for the entire year.

It's a similar story for the Maybach.

"The interest in this car has been overwhelming," Leon Hustinx, Maybach marketing chief, told Automobilwoche.

There are waiting lists of a year for both the Maybach 57, which costs 359,600 euros, and the long-wheelbase Maybach 62, which costs 417,600 euros. For models with high levels of buyer customization, the waiting list is even longer.

Hustinx said reaction to the Maybach in the USA has been "highly positive." The Maybach 57 gets its launch in the USA in June, and the 62 follows in September. The 62 is expected to account of 40 percent of US sales, said Hustinx.

DaimlerChrysler believes the Maybach will be successful in Russia. A Maybach center will open in Moscow in July.

There is also good news from the Middle East, where 160 Maybachs are expected to be sold this year.

In early May, the first 10 Maybachs valued at 4 million euros were flown into the Middle East by jumbo jet.

"The cars were extremely well received," said sales director Steffen Baumann.

In the sheikdom of Abu Dhabi alone, up to 25 Maybachs are expected to be sold this year.

At Bentley, there are 3,200 advance orders for the new Continental GT. The car goes on sale in the autumn priced at 159,000 euros.

For the Continental GT, "we originally aimed to get advance orders equivalent to a year's worth of production," said product manager Mark Tennant. "In fact, we have already reached up to 18 months in some markets."

The Continental GT will be launched in the USA in March 2004 and is already sold out until the end of that year.

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