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  • Writer's pictureMark Webb

Record sales in a pandemic? Meet the luxury car makers flying high

2021 was not a bumper year for UK car sales. While marginally better than Covid-afflicted 2020, last year’s new registrations were still way down on pre-pandemic numbers.

So, a year to forget. Unless you sell to the world’s wealthy elite…


Bentley boss Adrian Hallmark took over in February 2018, leaving a job at Jaguar Land Rover to help turnaround a car maker plagued with problems, from low productivity to a complete absence of electrified models.

Hallmark’s impact was immediate and, having overhauled the business from the ground up and hatched a robust plan for Bentley’s future, he was in bullish mood when he boldly announced in late 2019 that ‘only an asteroid could stop Bentley now’…

For asteroid, insert global pandemic.

But Hallmark and his team tackled car making in the Covid era with the same tech-lead, common-sense approach that’s served them well in the turning round of the core business – and now Bentley is absolutely flying. With a refreshed Bentayga SUV on sale together with the new-ish Continental GT and very fresh Flying Spur four-door, its model range has never looked better. What’s more, hybrid versions of the Bentayga and Flying Spur are now available – and selling strongly.

Deliveries were up 31% over 2020, with 14,659 happy owners treating themselves to a new Bentley last year. The Bentayga remains the big seller, accounting for 40% of sales, and of those one in five is the V6 plug-in hybrid version.

As for the future, it’s electric. Bentley’s first EV will arrive in 2025, followed by another new zero-emission Bentley each year for the subsequent five years. After all, with strong torque and hushed refinement at the heart of the Bentley driving experience, electric power (developed in conjunction with sister brand Audi) makes a lot of sense for the luxury British marque.


Back in early 2020, Ferrari’s hometown and manufacturing base, Maranello, was quick to respond to the pandemic’s challenges. Nevertheless, with the operation able to run more productively in 2021 and with demand strong, total deliveries were up 22% to 11,155 cars.

Sales of Ferrari’s V12 flagships slowed a little (down 16.1%) as the 812 Superfast was phased out, but V8 sales (the mid-engined F8 Tributo, the front-engined Roma and the hybrid SF90 Stradale hypercar) were up a whopping 34.6%.

Interestingly, while the Covid-curtailed F1 season helped save Ferrari some money last year (fewer races meant reduced operating costs), those savings were offset by a smaller cheque for finishing lower in the table in 2020… (Ferrari was a lowly sixth in the 2020 manufacturers’ championship, versus second in 2019.)


5586 cars might not sound like many. But for Rolls-Royce, 5586 deliveries made 2021 the most successful year in the company’s entire (quite bumpy at times) 117-year history.

Numbers were up 49% on Covid-slowed 2020, and much of that surge in demand was down to the new Ghost, the smallest (least big?) and most affordable (least eye-wateringly expensive?) Rolls-Royce.

The Black Badge Ghost is proving particularly popular. Vaguely comparable with M-badged BMWs, Black Badge Rollers are more powerful, more luxurious and get a mean and moody design makeover. They also account for more than a quarter of Rolls-Royce sales.

Looking ahead, Rolls-Royce is readying its first electric car, the Spectre, slated to go on sale late next year – well ahead of the first electric cars from either Ferrari or Bentley.


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