Premium Vehicle Perspective: Depends Where You Look

When looking at charts developed by French auto analyst firm Inovev of the sales of premium vehicles in the U.S., China and Europe for the first 11 months of 2021, there are a few surprises.

As in sales of 2 million in the U.S., 3 million in China and 2.5 million in Europe.

It’s not surprising that the number is higher in China than in the other two regions. After all, it has a population of 1.4 billion.

It is a little surprising that the numbers break as they do, given that the population in Europe is 748 million, which is about half of that in China and slightly more than twice the population in the U.S. The 500K increments seem strange given that.

Clearly wealth is not evenly distributed, with the U.S. having a higher proportion of its population capable of affording a premium vehicle.

But the surprising thing is the relative sales of the premium brands in the three markets.

The five three brands in the U.S. during this period are BMW, Lexus, Tesla, Mercedes and Audi. Then there is a slight falloff in numbers.

The top five brands in China are BMW, Mercedes, Audi, then a big decline (Audi is at over 600,000 units) to Tesla (at 240,000) and Cadillac.

In Europe it is BMW, Mercedes, Audi, then a big drop to Volvo (Audi: >500K; Volvo: 245K) and Tesla.

While there is consistency with BMW, Mercedes and Audi, and while Tesla is certainly on a roll, Lexus is something of an outlier. It doesn’t show up at all in the listing of sales in China and in Europe it is in ninth position, behind Lancia and just ahead of Jaguar, all of which are well below 100,000 units.

Lancia doesn’t show up at all in the sales tracking for the U.S. and China, and in the U.S. Jag is in last place and it is third from last in China.

Seems as though the German brands are consistently solid around the world while for everyone else it is somewhat random.

Aston Martin Going Racing

Back in the early 1920s, Count Louis Zborowski, a “fabulously wealthy son of a Polish Count”—oddly enough, one born in Elizabethtown, New Jersey—“and an American heiress” who had “a fortune that in today’s money would comfortably class him as a billionaire,” according to Aston Martin, was fundamentally responsible for getting the British firm into Grand Prix racing, with the company’s first effort at the French Grand Prix in 1922, with the Count behind the wheel of one of the two cars entered into the event. Neither car finished.

Aston Martin Chassis TT1–the company’s original race car. (Image: Aston Martin)

Zbrowski? He joined the Mercedes team in 1924 and died racing in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, colliding with a tree. His father, William Eliot Morris Zborowski, died in a racing accident in 1903, during a hill climb in France.

Lawrence Stroll, a Canadian billionaire, is the Executive Chairman of Aston Martin Lagonda. A consortium of investors he led put £182 million into the company last January, then reworked the agreement in March so that the group owns about 25% of the company.

Stroll has long been involved in racing. His son Lance is a driver. Stroll owns Circuit Mont-Tremblant in Quebec. He isn’t a mere spectator or fan. He is of the fabric of the sport.

And now he has revived the Aston Martin Formula One team.

According to AutoExpress, as of late October 2020 Aston Martin had delivered a total 2,752 cars and had an operating loss of £ 229 million.

Which makes one wonder about whether it makes a whole lot of sense to go racing, an undertaking that is notoriously cash-intensive.

Here is something of an interesting coincidence: Mercedes—remember Zbrowski’s car (and it seems that his father might have been piloting one up that hill in France)?—has entered into an agreement with Aston Martin through which it may be able to acquire as much as 20% of the company.