Despite the slowdown in the global economy, the luxury auto market appears to be doing quite well. German-based automaker BMW posted record car sales in 2011, as did luxury British car maker Rolls Royce. Premium automakers are counting on the trend to continue.
Despite the financial uncertainty in Europe or the slowdown in China, the market for luxury cars has never been better.
Last year, British automaker Rolls Royce sold more than 3,500 ultra-luxury models like a $450,000 Phantom Coupe. That's a 31 percent increase, and company CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös says it's the biggest in the firm's 107-year history.
"We have seen growth in all our markets worldwide but particularly in our Asian markets and also in the United States," said Müller-Ötvös. "Both are our biggest markets worldwide."
German automaker BMW also enjoyed a banner year, posting record sales in 2011 - to take the top spot from Mercedes and Toyota's high-end Lexus line. Paul Ferraiolo is head of BMW's product planning.
"We did nearly 250,000 BMW's in the U.S., and it was a great year," said Ferraiolo. "And it was because we had a lot of new models, and people are very happy with our latest lineup."
The growth in sales of premium automobiles is reflected around the globe. In Continental Europe - sales in Germany and Russia have more than doubled. In the Asia-Pacific region - it's up 47 percent, and in the oil-rich Middle East - sales of luxury cars are up 23 percent.
Muller-Otvos says the strongest demand comes from the newly rich and from those who appreciate the highest level of craftsmaship.
"Many of our customers have been very successful in their particular business, and for that reason they have rewarded themselves with, you can say, a nice reward for achieving certain targets they set for themselves," he said.
All told, the luxury segment grew more than 14 percent last year. Industry experts predict sales to grow about 8 percent in 2012 - more than twice as fast as the overall car market.