Ferrari factor powers Inchcape

Sales of Ferraris, those symbols of motoring extravagance, are booming in Britain and provide further evidence of a buoyant consumer economy.

Ferrari imports rose by 20 per cent last year according to Inchcape, the car distribution group. It sold 300 of the high-performance sports cars in Britain compared to 250 in 1995. The prices range from pounds 90,000 for a run-of-the-mill F355 Berlinetta up to pounds 350,000 for an F50 described by the company as "the ultimate dream machine".

Inchcape also said that sales of other top-of-the-range cars such as BMWs, Mercedes and Chrysler Cherokee jeeps were also buoyant.

"Only two years ago, the luxury end of the car industry was a real nightmare market. But the better economy is certainly a factor and we are finding that it is not just City workers spending their bonuses that are behind the rise. They are accountants, lawyers doctors as well as City advisers," the company said. Inchcape said the higher sales of Ferraris was also due to the car maker's decision to broaden the appeal of the cars.

The luxury car boom is just one of a series of indicators showing that higher-value products are selling well. Figures earlier this month from the Champagne Information Bureau showed that champagne shipments to the UK were almost back to their level in the Eighties boom. British consumption of bubbly rose 18 per cent last year compared to the world-wide figure of 2.6 per cent.

Meanwhile Mappin & Webb, the jeweller, reported strong growth in sales of watch brands such as Rolex and Cartier and Trailfinders, the travel agents, said bookings to exotic destinations were growing strongly.