City streets tell the story of big spenders getting their nerve back

If you want proof the global financial crisis is over - at least at the top end of town - look no further than the car park.

Sales of luxury and sports cars boomed last year, according to data released by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, and brands like Ferrari and Rolls-Royce were the big winners.

More than 1000 sports cars costing more than $200,000 and almost 900 luxury cars above $100,000 were sold.

Rolls-Royce sales were up 177 per cent in Australia, helped by the launch of the company's new ''affordable'' model, the Ghost.

It costs $645,000, compared with the $1,355,000 asking price of the Drophead Coupe.

Globally the company enjoyed its best year ever, more than doubling its previous record.

Ferrari also enjoyed the benefits of a new model with the launch of the 458 Italia. It helped push the brand to 126 sales last year; growth of more than 21 per cent over 2009.

Sister brand Maserati did even better with 141 sales, helped by the new GranCabrio convertible.

Ferrari's traditional rival, Lamborghini, also enjoyed a bumper year and sold 45 cars, a 73 per cent boost in sales.


But it wasn't just the Italians enjoying the rewards of a brighter economic picture. British sports car maker Aston Martin sold 121 of its DB9 and Vantage models.

Coming back down to earth, regular Australians continued to flock to sports utility vehicles (SUVs). Although the overall new car market was up 10.5 per cent, sales of SUVs rose 25 per cent.

But some people still have an aversion to big, lumbering SUVs.

That helped sales of compact city cars costing less than $25,000, which grew by almost 20 per cent. That market looks set to grow with the arrival of several cut-price Chinese brands due in the next few years.

Another surprise from the sales data is the steadily increasing number of Australian motorists switching to diesel-powered vehicles.

The prospect of superior fuel economy helped to convince more than 20,000 private buyers to buy diesel.

It wasn't all good news though.

Australian buyers continued to shun French and American cars. Renault sales fell more than 20 per cent on 2009 and Chrysler and Dodge sales slumped.