24 Highway traffic bThere are traditional measures of success and one of them has always been your car. And by this measure Australians are doing very well indeed; the luxury car market has never been as successful as it is right now and there are no signs of a slowdown. Whether it’s an Audi A1 or a Ferrari – or anything in between – Australians have never bought more.

The figures speak for themselves. In 2000 Australians bought 787,100 new vehicles, in 2015 we bought 1,155,408, an increase of 47 per cent. In the same period sales of BMWs have risen by 161 per cent, Mercedes-Benzes by 185 per cent and Audi 665 per cent. Bentley sales have risen by an astounding 1217 per cent and Rolls-Royce is up by 1400 per cent. Lotus sales have doubled, Ferrari’s have almost tripled, both Maserati and Lamborghini are up by almost 10 times and Aston Martin sales are up by 13 times. Porsche sales have increased by almost 500 per cent, Land Rover/Range Rover sales have doubled and Volvo is up 63 per cent.

If you’re hard you’d say Jaguar is a loser, having risen by less than the overall market at just 26 per cent. In fact the only prestige brand I could spot that’s down is Alfa Romeo – 1744 sales in 2000, 1577 in 2015.

24 Waverley BMWNow consider the luxury brands that have come along since 2000. Infiniti sold 574 cars in 2015, McLaren 36 and Mini 3342. And prestige sales are still going up in 2016.

So do more people have more money or are the rich getting richer? It’s neither; prestige cars don’t cost a whole lot more now than they did back then and in many cases they’re cheaper, despite being vastly safer and better equipped. Wages have grown, thus many more people can splurge on what they’ve always aspired to drive.

And the big brands have all introduced smaller, cheaper entry-level models since then to tempt more people into their brands and, hopefully, keep them there. With Audi it’s the A1, BMW has the 1-series and Mercedes-Benz the A-class. It was not possible in 2000 but now you can pay more for a Corolla than something from one of the German brands. A Corolla ZR sedan is $34,810 drive away while you can drive out in an Audi A1 for $31,500.

And the finance options are more attractive too. Novated leases on work cars make prestige brands very tempting and they’ve exploded in popularity.

So if you think you’re seeing more prestige cars around, you are. And if you think this is a sign that Australians are richer, well that’s right too but not nearly so much.

Published August 2015