"The wealthy continue to spend up large on new luxury cars, shrugging off the effects of the global economic turmoil.
Official figures show sales of luxury brands such as Bentley, BMW, Porsche and Ferrari grew by more than 8 per cent last year."
Despite considering myself green and being hugely aware of the environmental consequences of the internal combustion engine, I have to admit to my admiration for a well made car. I was brought up by a father for whom the car you drove, and how you cared for it, defined you as a man. I think the fact that I preferred self propulsion as a means of transport was always a bit of a disappointment to him and while at one time my father owned six cars I have ended up the proud owner of five bicycles.
My father's influence, however, did instill in me a fondness for British cars and I can still recall the distinctive smell of leather and woolen carpets in the stately Humber Super Snipe we owned briefly (the Queen used a similar vehicle for her 1953 New Zealand tour) and the smaller Humber 10 I learned to drive in. There is something about the solid engineering and general aesthetics that appeals to me about the British marques of the 50s and 60s. I have never owned a new car but for 14 years drove a 1961 Humber 80. There were two of of them, the first I bought as a student and my second on my return from my OE and was short of cash.
This is similar to my two Humbers except my first was green and my second was yellowI was especially fond of the winged lady that perched elegantly on the bonnet of the Humbers and I stubbornly continued driving them despite the fact that I could have owned a far more fuel efficient and reliable Toyota. Latterly I have admired the Rover 75s and the S Type Jaguars for their style connections with the 60s.
The reason why I began this post with an autobiographical account of my relationship with cars is to show that I can empathise with people who like cars and are prepared to irrationally spend money on them. My negative reaction to a newspaper article regarding the increase in the sales of luxury cars is not based on envy but concern regarding the huge amount of New Zealand's wealth being spent on these elitist vehicles, many of which cost more than the lifetime earnings of the average worker.
When wage earners are being asked to bite the bullet, hundreds of jobs are being lost in the public sector and 1/4 of our children are living in poverty, the luxury car market saw an 8% increase in sales. I have no way of quantifying the total amount spent but when over 2500 new Audis and BMWs were sold last year, as well as 11 Ferraris, 20 Maseratis, 5 Lamborghinis and the local Rolls Royce dealer thinks he is on track to sell at least 8 next year (at over $700,000 each) we are talking in hundreds of millions. I estimated that $450 million worth of new Bentleys were sold here in 2010 so I think the total annual spend on luxury cars could reach the $2 billion mark and, coincidentally, this is very similar to the amount of revenue we lose each year through providing tax cuts to the rich. Banana Republic here we come!