19 new £160k Bentleys bought in Northern Ireland
Around 20 people in Northern Ireland last year snapped up a model of the brand-new Bentley costing close to £160,000, according to figures for luxury car sales in 2018, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
Five high-net worth individuals here also spent £1.3m on new top-of the-range Rolls-Royce cars during the year, while sales of sporty Ferraris also hit a record.
The classic Rolls-Royce appears to have made a return to big spenders' affections as none had been sold here during 2017. As well as the two models in the top 10, two other Rolls-Royces were sold, bringing the total to seven.
The BMW 7 Series - which has a price tag of nearly £63,000 - was Northern Ireland's most popular luxury car during 2018.
Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders showing the top 10 luxury cars here revealed that there were 41 of the 7 Series sold during the year. Their top 10 of the most popular luxury cars totals 131 vehicles.
Mercedes claimed the next biggest share of luxury car sales, with its S Class, costing around £73,740, going to 33 new homes during the year, while the Mercedes SL - at around £76,400 - was bought by five people.
Bentley was the third most popular luxury marque, with 19 Bentley Continental sold, as well as four Bentley Flying Spur.
With another 10 sold in other Bentley ranges, it had its best year for over a decade.
According to Autocar, the Bentley Continental costs from £159,100 while the Flying Spur costs £132,800.
Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said the premium-brand market, which includes sports cars, now accounted for one in five of all new car sales.
Premium car sales here had grown by 27% over the last five years, despite a fall in 5% in ordinary cars over the period.
Mr Ramsey said there were also interesting findings when scrutinising the market for luxury sports cars.
"A record number of Ferraris were sold last year.
"Sales jumped from 19 in 2017 to 30. Aston Martin sales fell from 2017's 10-year-high of 27 to 25. Maserati had a record year in 2017 (81) but sales fell by 43% last year.
"Nevertheless, this still represents the second best sales figures on record in Northern Ireland. One Lamborghini and two McLaren sports cars also rolled out of local showrooms last year.
"Record highs were also evident in other luxury brands with seven Rolls-Royce cars sold in 2018 (up from 0 in 2017).
"Bentley also had its best year in 12 years with 33 cars sold."
Alan Gourley, tax director at Grant Thornton in Belfast said growing wealth among businesspeople could account for the growth for many types of luxury car.
"We have observed a marked increase over recent years in major deals closed locally, whether it is people selling property or businesses that they have built up over perhaps 30 or 40 years.
"This trend has created a lot of new wealth in Northern Ireland and as such, it is not surprising to see that some of this appears to have been spent on the purchases of luxury vehicles."
Jeff McCartney, sales operations director at Northern Ireland's largest car retailer, Charles Hurst, which is the sole franchise holder for Bentley, Aston Martin, Ferrari and Maserati on the island of Ireland, told the Belfast Telegraph: "We've had one of our busiest years in a decade, with interest, enquiries and sales up across all our performance and luxury brands including Bentley, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Maserati and Jaguar Land Rover - and not just for new models.
"We definitely note strengthened consumer confidence at the high end of the market and this is also reflected in a steady rise in online searches to our website.
"Not everyone will or can buy these premium cars of course - but the numbers who are proactively perusing them online is certainly on the up." Mr Ramsey said that while new car sales overall had hit a five-year low in 2018, a look under the bonnet of the figures showed some brands and models were doing well.
"Some brands such as Vauxhall and Fiat posted their lowest sales figures in the last 20 years. Fiat saw sales slump by 45% last year. Peugeot sold 100 cars more than in 2017, though the latter marked a series low.
"Conversely, 2018 proved to be the best year ever for other mid-market brands, notably Seat and Skoda."