Luxary cars roll out at Los Angeles show

Diskutiere Luxary cars roll out at Los Angeles show im Smalltalk um den Mercedes Forum im Bereich Allgemeines; LOS ANGELES, Jan 3 - The dot-com millionaires are long gone, but luxury carmakers are launching new models anyway, banking that rebates on a...

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    LOS ANGELES, Jan 3 - The dot-com millionaires are long gone, but luxury carmakers are launching new models anyway, banking that rebates on a Rolls-Royce will boost sales just like they do for cheaper models.
    Given a lead time of about five years to develop a new car, 2002 will see the U.S. launch of autos with triple-digit price tags. Several, like Lamborghini's $273,000 Murcielago sports car, are on view at this week's Los Angeles Auto Show, which marks the kick-off of the industry's annual round of new model showcases.
    Despite the sluggish economy, automakers who once eyed the bank accounts of the dot-com crowd have picked up the pace of luxury model launches, but they also stand ready to market them with some of the same rebates and incentives that the industry has used to lift sales of lower-end models.
    "It's just a matter of how much creativity is needed. Our challenge is to keep the momentum going," said Carsten Preisz, regional marketing manager for Rolls-Royce & Bentley Motor Cars Inc., which is owned by Volkswagen AG <VDWG.F>.
    U.S. automakers have countered that the slowing economy and financial fallout from the Sept. 11 attacks, not to mention stiff competition from overseas, by offering zero-percent financing and other customer incentives, deals that have traditionally been rare in the luxury segment.
    "Most of our clients are not swayed by day-to-day offers, but we have kept up a tactical dialogue with them," Preisz said.
    Incentives such as zero percent financing, cash or gratis trips to the company's plant in Crewe, England to hand-pick car options helped keep the company's 2001 sales only about 50 cars short of the previous year's tally, he added.
    For this year, Rolls-Royce & Bentley expects the status quo or slight growth, the regional manager said.

    LEATHER FROM SCAR-FREE COWS
    Bentley, which will unveil a new model at next week's Detroit Auto Show, showed a $370,000 version of its Azure convertible in Los Angeles. A leather interior fashioned from the hides of cows raised fence-free in Scandinavia so they have no scars or blemishes is just one of the car's numerous high-end features.
    Lamborghini, which was bought by Volkswagen unit Audi in 1998, is launching its first new car in 10 years.
    "We were fortunate to be changing over at the moment the recession started. We have the opportunity to skip this recession ... in my opinion we are almost out of it," Giuseppe Greco, chief executive of Automobile Lamborghini Holding SpA, told Reuters.
    The Italian marque expects to sell 400 Murcielago's annually and will launch in two years a slightly smaller car with a production rate of 1,200-1,300 per year, Greco said.
    It takes about 25 times as long to make the $273,000 car than it does to manufacture a conventional auto, he stressed.
    The new Lamborghini was named by the Environmental Protection Agency as the least fuel-efficient two-seater for the 2002 model year, but Greco said that at its "normal speed of about 100 mph," the car gets about 13-14 mph, or about the same as a sports utility vehicle.
    "It doesn't carry that many kids to a soccer game -- they would have to go one at a time," he said of the low-riding two-seater. The Murcielago can travel at more than 205 mph and goes from zero to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds.
    The new car puts Lamborghini in direct competition with fellow Italian sports carmaker Ferrari. Ferrari's Maserati brand is also returning to the U.S. market after a 10-year absence with the launch of the 2002 Spyder, which retails for under $100,000.
    Bugatti, another Italian brand now owned by Volkswagen, along with DaimlerChrysler AG's <DCXGn.DE> Mercedes and BMW AG <BMWG.DE> are set to launch new ultraluxury cars next year.
    Mercedes debuted its 2003 SL-500 roadster in Los Angeles Thursday. The car, with a convertible top that takes 16 seconds to open or close, will be launched in March with pricing expected at $83,000 to $85,000.
    Jaguar, the luxury U.K. unit of Ford Motor Co. <F.N>, unveiled its 2003 S-TYPE sedan.
    The Los Angeles Auto Show opens to the public Saturday and runs until Jan. 13.
     
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Luxary cars roll out at Los Angeles show

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