European governments may be begging for cash, but their consumers are splurging on luxury cars

Hey, cash-strapped Europeans: Do we have a deal for you!
Hey, cash-strapped Europeans: Do we have a deal for you!
Image: Reuters/Robert Galbraith
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European governments are having trouble keeping the lights on in their troubled economies. European auto enthusiasts, on the other hand, are still living the good life.

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) and Bentley just released impressive first quarter earnings numbers, and guess what: They’re both selling a surprisingly healthy number of cars in crisis-ridden Europe. JLR reported its best ever quarterly sales, which came in 17% higher than for the same period last year and benefitted from a 5% uptick in Europe. Bentley announced an impressive 26% rise in car deliveries for the quarter, and specifically cited an “outstanding” performance in Europe, where deliveries rose by 14%. Both companies performed especially well in the UK, where sales were up 60% for Bentley and 14% for JLR, according to the Guardian.

As we’ve noted, overall European car sales for the year recently fell to their lowest levels since the fall of the Berlin Wall. But some luxury carmakers are telling a different story. Even as lower-end carmakers like Hyundai complain about Europe’s “squeezed middle,” luxury carmakers like Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, the world’s biggest luxury-vehicle producer, and Mercedes-Benz, the third-ranked luxury-car maker, have posted strong gains on the continent.

The higher margins and healthier demand for luxury cars in Europe have driven carmakers like Ford to roll out fancier versions of their middle-end models that are tailored to European tastes.

Industry leaders at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt last month were far from optimistic about the future prospects of middling European car consumers. Ditching the little guy for consumers unfazed by regional woes is bound to remain a safer bet.