Recovery in luxury car market motors on

MAGNUS GRIMOND

The recovery amongst Britain's luxury car makers has continued into 1996 with Rolls-Royce reporting a 12 per cent rise in volumes so far this year and Jaguar announcing plans for a big increase in Japanese sales.

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars said it had sold 396 cars across the world in the first three months of the year, up from 353 in the first quarter of 1995. Sales were up in all areas except Japan and continental Europe, the company said. In Japan, 30 cars were sold in the first quarter of 1996 compared with 35 in the same period of 1995. On the Continent, sales totalled 42 cars in the latest period, down from 55 in the same period a year ago.

The overall figures continue a trend of rising sales seen last year, when Rolls launched its most expensive car ever, a pounds 220,000 Bentley. Sales in 1995 of 1,556 cars represented a 10 per cent increase on the year before. The recovery at the luxury car subsidiary from losses in 1991/92 has helped drive much of the profits growth at Vickers. The tanks to baby incubators group headed by chief executive Sir Colin Chandler reported 1995 profits up two-thirds to pounds 75m last month, with the automotive side almost doubling from pounds 21m to pounds 40.9m. However, Rolls-Royce sales were still only around half the level of 1990, before the subsidiary hit problems.

Separately, Jaguar Japan, a subsidiary of Ford's British luxury car maker, said it hoped to boost local vehicle sales to 8,000 units a year by 1999 from around 2,500 at present. It said it planned to double its sales outlets to 80 by 1999 to support the forecast sales growth.

The announcement is further good news for the West Midlands-based car maker, which last month won pounds 72m in Government aid to support the manufacture of a new model in the UK.

The X200 mid-range Jaguars will be built on new assembly lines at the company's Castle Bromwhich works and are set to go on sale in 1998.

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