Luxury cars in pole position at LA auto show

Luxury cars in pole position at LA auto show

LOS ANGELES - Luxury cars lead the grid at the LA Auto show: limited editions, $200,000+ price tags, 3D dashboards for drivers and champagne on ice for passengers.

What more could the ultra-rich motorist want?

Red-hot stock markets, historically low interest rates and cheaper gas prices are fueling a surge in sales of top-of-the-range cars at the West Coast show.

"The market is very robust," with 5-6 per cent growth expected next year, said Johan de Nysschen head of General Motors' high-end brand Cadillac, presenting the new ATS-V on Wednesday.

The sports car will cost from $63,000 (S$82,070) but Nysschen noted that the market is stronger for more expensive models, at over $100,000 - a segment dominated by European automakers, but where Cadillac soon hopes to compete.

Those carmakers from across the Pond have in recent years extended their range to smaller and less expensive models, accessible to more customers notably due to low-interest financing.

The risk for brands like Porsche, BMW, Mercedes and others like Jaguar is to see their image suffer among the millionaire type customers they try to woo in the United States, China, Europe and the Middle East.

Their challenge is therefore to continue to produce high-end luxury cars which make people dream, a little like how haute-couture fashion fuels sales of ready-to-wear clothes on the high street.

"You have (leasing) offers for Maseratis at $699 per month, so luxury carmakers have to protect their brands," said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst at specialist website Edmunds.com.

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