War with Iraq may be just around the corner, and stock markets keep plummeting to new lows. But the auto industry's emerging super-luxury segment is taking no notice.
DaimlerChrysler already has received 1,000 deposits for the Maybach sedan - enough to account for the first year of production. Volkswagen group's Bentley unit is on target to smash previous production records with its forthcoming Continental GT. Rolls-Royce did not reveal how many deposits it has received for the new Phantom, but says it is on target.
Healthy advance orders suggest there really is room for growth at the top of the automotive market. The stakes in this glamorous sector are very high, because the manufacturers have invested heavily.
"It's a $1 billion bet," says Bentley marketing chief Adrian Hallmark.
So far, it looks like that bet is paying off. One thousand Maybach customers have deposited E50,000 apiece to order the car, and DaimlerChrysler has begun taking orders for 2004.
"The car has been accepted very, very well," said Leon Hustinx, Maybach's director of marketing and sales.
So far, about 30 percent of purchasers have ordered the long-wheelbase limousine version, dubbed the 62. DaimlerChrysler will start delivering vehicles to customers in May.
Meanwhile, Bentley dealers have taken 3,000 deposits for the new Continental GT, according to Mark Tennant, director of product strategy for Bentley Motors in Crewe, England. Bentley will start delivering cars in the fourth quarter.
Among the three new super-luxury cars, only the Rolls-Royce Phantom is currently available. Rolls expects to produce approximately 1,000 Phantoms a year. But the automaker declined to divulge the number of orders it has received.
"I'd prefer not to get into public contest over who's sold out the first year," said Howard Mosher, sales and marketing director for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars in Chichester, England. "We will be market driven. We will build what the market wants. At the moment, we're on plan."