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The British in New York

The New York City Auto Show is where the luxury car brands go in the US to show off their wares and this year the UK car makers are particularly strong. Running from March 29 to April 7, the show has attracted the likes of Bentley and Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) to the Big Apple. The American car makers still like to promote Cadillac and Lincoln as the last word in luxury but US drivers seem to have other ideas.

The New York City Auto Show is where the luxury car brands go in the US to show off their wares and this year the UK car makers are particularly strong. Running from March 29 to April 7, the show has attracted the likes of Bentley and Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) to the Big Apple. The American car makers still like to promote Cadillac and Lincoln as the last word in luxury but US drivers seem to have other ideas. When it comes to prestige marques they still look to Europe. Last year BMW won the race to be America's largest luxury car maker with more than 280,000 sales. Another German company, Mercedes, was in second place.

 
Luxury car makers worldwide recognise the US as the key market, not just in terms of sales but in setting trends that are replicated worldwide. Bentley head of sales, Kevin Rose, explains: "The importance of the US is beyond the numbers. It's a benchmark for luxury because its customers are so demanding. If you're not succeeding as a luxury brand in the US, you're unlikely to elsewhere." Prestige marques like Bentley and JLR are cashing in on the recovery in car sales being experienced in the US. Total car sales in the US slumped from 17 million to just 10.5 million in 2009 in the wake of the financial crisis but numbers are recovering well. They rebounded to 14.4 million in 2012 and are forecast to reach 15.3 million in 2013.
 
In North America, Bentley's sales were up 23% in 2012, while JLR managed 11%. These rises look like continuing into 2013 with JLR reporting a very healthy 18% rise in February. Impressive though this performance is, it is still modest in comparison to the big German manufacturers. Success depends upon a steady flow of exciting new models to stimulate demand and Bentley and JLR are no slouches when it comes to introducing new cars. JLR has used the press days at the show to launch a new Range Rover Sport and Jaguar XJR saloon while Bentley has shown its new Flying Spur and Continental.
 
Both manufacturers of course now have foreign owners, with Bentley being owned by Volkswagen and JLR owned by TATA, but Bentley boss Rose insists it is the 'Britishness' of his brand that wins the US buyers over: "There is something inherently British about the brand and there is great warmth towards it, " he says. Whatever the ownership, it is clear that US drivers' appetite for British luxury is a boon to our car factories in Crewe, Halewood, Castle Bromwich and Solihull.
 

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