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If you’re looking to sum up the economic side of the COVID-19 pandemic in one sentence, look no further: “Luxury British car maker Bentley cruised to a record year in 2021 as global sales jumped 31 per cent amid strong demand for high-end vehicles, the Volkswagen AG unit said on Thursday.”

That’s from Reuters. As the world reeled from the worst pandemic in more than 100 years, Bentley sales rose to 14,659 in 2021 from 11,206 units in 2020. Bentley’s top-selling vehicle was the Bentayga luxury SUV, which starts at more than $200,000.

There you have it – as the plague raged, members of the moneyed class were forced to spend their hard-earned millions on luxury vehicles. How fortunate they had the outlet.

Bentley isn’t the sole luxury vehicle in high demand since the pandemic swept the planet, leaving millions of people dead, unemployed and/or depressed. In April, 2021, Rolls-Royce chalked up the best quarter in its history. The company sold 1,380 cars in the first quarter (up 62 per cent from the same period in 2020). In 2021, Lamborghini registered the best six months in its history, selling 4,853 vehicles. Porsche North America sold 70,000, up from its record sales in 2020. (Not all prized luxury carmakers had banner years. Cars UK reported that Aston Martin had a lousy year, posting a £15-million [$26-million] loss.)

Kind of makes you wonder: if Nero were around today, would he fiddle as Rome burned, or would he head down to the nearest Bentley chariot dealership?

And what is it about the Bentley that makes it the go-to luxury vehicle for the ultrarich trying to deal with the fact they can’t fly to San Francisco for the day to have dinner at the French Laundry? Why is the Bentley the balm of billionaires?

The Bentley is having the best sales since the creation of the brand in 1919 because it is the car you tell yourself you’d buy if you could. Bentley has meant “I made it” since the 1920s, when playboy racers dubbed the Bentley Boys rose to prominence and fame.

The Bentley is the classic definition of classic. The word itself conjures up one thing, and one thing only, opulent performance (okay, two words). I can’t speak from personal experience. I’ve never driven a Bentley, but I’ve seen people drive them and they look pretty darn pleased with themselves.

What effect will Omicron, COVID-19′s troubled middle child, have on luxury vehicle sales?

The gilded classes have already sprung for Bentleys, Porsches and Lamborghinis in 2021. Will the rich just buy another Bentley? Will they buy three and push one off a cliff?

In 2022, another luxury car will no doubt come along. Those who can have it, will. Those who can’t have it will take solace by sitting in judgment of the conspicuousness of the expense. (I think you’re shallow for buying a Bentley while someone else thinks I’m shallow for buying a Mini Cooper and so it goes, on down the line.)

Oh well, we must live as we can because we cannot live as we would.

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