Conspicuous consumption alive and well at the N.Y. auto show

April 22, 2011 at 9:18 AM ET

TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP - Getty Images /
The front of the Mercedes-Benz Concept A Car is shown during the 2011 New York International Auto Show.

If this year’s New York International Auto Show is anything to go by, the rich are making their consumption more conspicuous these days.

Earlier this week, the world’s major luxury vehicle manufacturers launched their newest cars with almost pre-recession opulence.

Bentley, for example, kicked off the premium gatherings with a reception at the new Manhattan store for Breitling watches. High rollers had the chance to ogle watches that cost as much as cars, and cars that cost as much as a house. Bentley used the occasion to debut the new $38,900 Bentley Barnato watch (made by Breitling). It’s named after Woolf Barnato -- one of the drivers who scored five wins for Bentley in the 24 Hours of Le Mans sports car race in the 1920s. Breitling will make only 25 of the watches (and one customer who attended the event placed an order for one of the watches the next day).

Mercedes-Benz also hosted a gathering in an intimate venue -- its new 330,000 square foot Manhattan dealership, purpose built to coddle luxury customers by minimizing some of the hassles of driving in Manhattan.

Example: three levels of parking underneath the building, with entrances and exits making it easier to get in and out of it no matter which direction you’re going.

Maserati, Lexus and Formula One car constructor McLaren showed off its new models at media parties, with the McLaren get-together also serving as a sneak preview of a new biographical film on the team’s icon world champion driver, Aryton Senna.

Let the good times roll!

(The 2011 New York auto show is open to the public from Friday, April 22 through Sunday, May 1.)