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NewsTalk

Welcome to the archives for NewsTalk, an IBJ blog published from November 2007 through December 2010.

Recession / Auto Dealers / Economy / Retail / Real Estate & Retail

Even Bentley sales are down

December 16, 2009

Blessings in disguise are always nice. Especially when you sell super-luxury cars like Rolls-Royce and Bentley.

Greg and Mark Albers handled both marques at their tiny Zionsville dealership until 2003, when BMW acquired the Rolls-Royce name and wanted the brothers to build a separate location for the venerable British brand.

The Albers opted to ditch Rolls-Royce because, at prices starting near $350,000, they wouldn’t have sold enough of the cars to recover the investment. Not many local people are comfortable with such conspicuous consumption.

But Bentley was another matter. More understated and cheaper—they started at $150,000—the brothers made their choice.

Today, car sales at Albers Bentley Zionsville are down two-thirds from 2007, Greg Albers says. But that’s a lot better than any separate Rolls-Royce dealership would have fared.

Bentley buyers are still the same entrepreneurs and business owners. There are just fewer of them kicking tires.

Most are biding their time, waiting for the economy to turn around, Albers says. Meanwhile, if they want a new car, they’re dropping back to a Mercedes or BMW.

Albers is amused when people suggest his customers can buy whatever they want, whenever they want it. The truth is that, while the customers are wealthy compared to the average person, their wealth fluctuates, and they become reluctant to spend when their businesses aren’t doing well.

“These are smart people. Most of them have money because they’ve been wise about it,” he says. “They’re not going to spend money foolishly.”

Despite the downdraft in car sales, the dealership has laid no one off because it continues to sell parts for vintage cars and repairs both brands. In the case of Rolls-Royce, it repairs only cars through the 2002 model year.

Any thoughts about buying expensive cars in times like these? Do you wish the Albers still sold Rolls-Royce?

 

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