MONTEREY, Calif. -- The scene is the alfresco luxury auto show held here every August, known simply as The Quail. Bentley designer Brett Boydell is trying to explain to a consumer from Los Angeles that the racy EXP 10 Speed 6 two-door coupe concept that Bentley has on display is not for sale.
At any price.
"How much will it sell for when it is for sale?" persists the visitor.
"This is only a design concept," Boydell tells him with English cheer. "We first have to decide whether we're going to build it."
"So when will it go on sale?" another visitor joins in.
If people with money seem more eager than normal to spend it on high-end autos, it's because they are. The U.S. ultraluxury brands are going strong. Maserati, Bentley, Lamborghini and Rolls-Royce are all bullishly planning crossovers.
But trend-watchers believe something bigger is happening in the luxury world. They believe a new demographic is rising into place in the upper levels of auto prices. And it is a demographic of people who care little for the reserved routines of the past, who often want something bold and different, who want it right now and who want to show it off.
"Kylie Jenner: Blue Hair, Pink Shoes and a Bright Green Bentley," screams a headline from celebritycarsblog.com. The accompanying photo, from the reality TV personality's Instagram flow, which has 34 million followers, shows what may or may not be her feet and shoes with the tail end of an acid-green Bentley, as though it was just another fashion accessory.
"Ice-T and Coco Throw Some Chrome on Their Rolls Royce," hollers another Web headline. The accompanying bling shot is enough to make a silver-haired Rolls dealer blush -- or smile with dollar signs in his eyes.
But the larger point? Luxury makers have duly noted the noise.
"There is a lot of new wealth out there today," agrees Gorden Wagener, global vice president of design for Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler AG. "People are looking for good places to invest their money, and we are asking, 'What more can we do to fulfill that desire for luxury?'"
Wagener points out the return of Daimler's elite Maybach subbrand this year. The new 2016 Mercedes-Maybach S600 starts at $191,975, including shipping and the U.S. gas guzzler tax -- twice the starting price of Mercedes' most expensive sedan, the S class.