British luxury car makers have been defying the recession by unveiling glamorous new models at the Geneva motor show this week.

Three british marques, Bentley, Rolls-Royce and Aston Martin all debuted new cars which have taken the Geneva motor show by storm.

The decision to launch a new model is coming at a time when many of its traditional buyers appear to be in decline, however the carmakers are undeterred.

We're not dealing with necessarily rational decisions, says Rolls-Royce chief Tom Purves in an interview with IB Times UK. We're dealing with aspirational decisions, emotional decisions

The long-awaited Baby Rolls - known as the 200EX - was on show. Retailing at 200,000 euros, the 200Ex heralds a new family of smaller Rolls-Royce models; expect coupe and convertible derivatives in years to come.

We've always said that with 2,000 of those cars and 1,000 Phantoms we'll have a fantastic business, argued Mr Purves. And if we can get 4,000 cars we'll have a fantastic business.

Not to be outdone, Aston Martin launched the most expensive car on show - the Limited Edition Aston-Martin One-77.

We have a funnel of customers if you like and there are people out there that have the funds to collect a car like this said Mark Reichman, Aston Martin design director

And in the world of collecting, the world of art - there are still people out there that want to have these beautiful objects

Costing around 1.25 million pounds the car takes pride of place on the Aston stand, along with two other new models, the DBS Volante, and it's most powerful Vantage model, which uses a V12 engine.

Arch-rival Bentley, also unveiled the 'Continental Supersports' described as the 'fastest, most extreme Bentley ever' by company chief Franz-Josef Paefgen.

On the other end of the spectrum, TATA, Indian car brand unveiled its answer to the recession - the cheapest car yet, known as the Nano.

Luxury car sales fall

Despite the new models, all three luxury car makers faced a downturn in sales throughout 2008.

The public has started to blame rich people for spending their money said Mr Bez, Aston Martin's chief executive, But wealth money is driving the economy.

Mr Bez saw Aston Martin sales drop from a peak of 7,400 in 2007 to about 6,400 in 2008.

Bentley chief Franz-Joseph Paefgen who saw sales fall by about 25% in 2008, also agreed it is a very natural reaction for people to be postponing luxury purchases in the current economic climate.

In an environment like this, people are not ready to buy luxury goods, he says.

Tom Purves, Chief executive to Rolls-Royce pointed out that once the recovery was underway, a the market for luxury cars would 'come back strongly'.

That pent up desire, that aspiration, does not go away Mr Purves said.Sales of Rolls-Royces are affected by recession but our customers are not he added.

In the meantime, the trio of British luxury car manufacturers are making the most of the situation, with both Aston and Bentley pushing up prices and upselling more expensive models.

Expensive models are more profitable and thus make it easier to live with in the recession where lower sales volumes are expected.

In terms of profits, it is better to sell 1,000 DBS models than to sell 1,500 of the Vantage, Mr Bez points out.


Bentley meanwhile is restructuring with a view to sell more 'bespoke' custom-made cars for their clients.

We are trying to use the crisis to restructure the business in a much leaner, more efficient way, explains Mr Paefgen.

Bentley chief Franz-Joseph Paefgen, has seen sales fall by about a quarter in 2008 from a peak of about 10,000 cars and hopes this restructuring will help them survive the economic downturn.

So far, they have already shed 220 jobs within the UK and cut staff salaries by 10%.

Bentley, along with other motoring manufacturers, has been hit by the global economic slowdown. a spokeswoman said earlier this year.

We've taken a number of stands since September last year as a result. With the situation likely to remain like it is throughout 2009 we thought it sensible to reduce our outgoings and head count.

She said the 10% pay cut for the workers who were not made redudant was a temporary measure.