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LTA statistics show that in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are buying high-luxury cars like never before.

04 Aug 2021


I've made this joke many times - in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, people (especially the wealthier ones) are buying cars now because they have nowhere else to spend their money. A Forbes report earlier this year found that total American billionaire wealth has gone up 35% since January 2020, when the pandemic was just beginning to overtake our lives. So, clearly, there is some credence to this feeling that the pandemic is affecting different people differently.

And, I've also heard from some brands (especially luxury ones) that yes, customers are buying cars in larger numbers than before.

But, just how true is this sentiment? Are the rich really getting richer? I decided to find out…

Thriving luxury

McLaren has registered as many cars in H1 2021 as the whole of 2020
LTA publishes statistics on new registration of cars by make. By comparing the figures already available for the first six months of 2021, and comparing against past years, some trends are immediately obvious.

The luxury brands are thriving.

Aston Martin, Bentley, Ferrari and Rolls-Royce all had their best years in 2020, with the most cars registered in 2020 compared to the yearly figures from the last six years. Additionally, brands like Porsche, Lamborghini and McLaren all had strong 2020 figures.

For these brands, 2021 will likely prove to be even better.

Brand 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 H1 2021
Aston Martin 5 14 29 26 21 28 17
Bentley 66 53 70 61 67 76 63
Ferrari 41 37 39 37 43 44 24
Lamborghini 20 15 18 38 61 42 23
McLaren 4 5 10 23 21 16 16
Porsche 589 563 677 575 628 582 434
Rolls-Royce 20 19 25 31 41 54 49


These brands (Aston Martin, Bentley, Ferrari and Rolls-Royce) are all on pace to far surpass their 2020 figures. McLaren has already registered as many cars this year as in 2020, while brands like Bentley, Porsche and Rolls-Royce are already close to hitting their 2020 figures.

So, what does this tell us? Yes, the statistics do not lie - rich people are really buying cars like never before. With income still rolling in, but now unable to go on holidays or eat out at restaurants, the wealthy can now spend their disposable income on other luxuries such as high-end cars.

Slow recovery

For the big three German brands, recovery is already on its way - all three are set to outperform 2020 
What about the rest of us?

For the three German premium brands (Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz), 2020 definitely saw a slight dip from their usual sales figures. Unlike the luxury brands, it appears that buyers within this segment were still a little financially tighter in 2020. 

However, it appears that recovery is on the way, with the first half of 2021 already proving to be successful, especially for BMW and Mercedes-Benz who have already managed to hit more than 60% of their 2020 numbers.

Brand 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 H1 2021
Audi 2,093 2,360 2,604 2,941 2,487 2,228 1,158
BMW 3,598 4,582 5,591 5,405 5,346 4,349 3,100
Mercedes-Benz 5,408 6,444 7,976 7,122 7,840 6,561 4,191


However, it's clear from the statistics that it is the mass market brands that are feeling the hurt through this ongoing pandemic. 

Brand 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 H1 2021
Honda 7,916 19,349 16,013 15,040 15,205 6,338 2,613
Hyundai 1,805 2,587 3,804 6,540 5,618 2,224 1,490
Mazda 5,287 7,091 8,509 5,414 3,095 2,411 1,582
Mitsubishi 1,379 3,632 3,555 3,284 3,020 1,300 601
Nissan 5,574 7,028 5,241 4,019 2,405 1,578 1,164
Toyota 12,171 18,491 19,133 13,817 12,923 7,704 5,171
Volkswagen 3,056 2,779 2,450 2,420 1,726 1,334 526


2020 was a particularly difficult year for the mass market brands, with numbers across the board falling way below previous years. Yes, some of the past year figures may be skewed by the influx of private-hire vehicles, but it's still clear that 2020 was a particularly difficult year.

Sales of mass market car have taken the biggest hit through this pandemic
Looking at the 2021 figures, it's evident that while the market may be rebounding slightly for brands like Toyota and Nissan, it's still some way off pre-pandemic figures.

So, in the midst of our country's worst-ever recession in 2020, which saw the economy shrink by 5.8%, it's unsurprising that the people hit hardest are the common folk. Amidst economic uncertainty, buying a big ticket item like a car is a much more difficult choice. Sales of mass market cars will likely continue to be slow compared to pre-COVID times. 

For the ultra wealthy? At least based on the way they are snapping up high-end luxury cars, it's hard to imagine that they are feeling the pinch as much as the rest of us. So, moving forward, expect to see luxury cars on our roads in larger numbers than before, because evidently, the rich are still getting richer.

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lta  rich  expensive cars  covid  bentley  aston martin  mclaren  ferrari  porsche  toyota  honda  mercedes  bmw