NEW YORK - Conspicuous consumption took a shellacking during the global recession even in the ultra-luxury segment that saw sales of new vehicles dive in tandem with plummeting stock markets.

“Our sales follow the stock market,” Alasdair Stewart, board member in charge of sales and marketing for Bentley, tells Ward's.

Along with a resurgent stock market, Bentley sales leaped 11% last year and Stewart forecasts double-digit growth again in 2011.

Rolls-Royce global sales jumped an astonishing 271% in first-quarter 2010, says David Archibald, president of Rolls-Royce North America.

“We weathered the recession pretty well,” he tells Ward's after unveiling the Spirit of Ecstasy Centenary Collection at the New York International Auto Show. But he says sales growth will be more modest this year.

The Spirit of Ecstasy is a limited-edition, highly bespoke Phantom. Only 100 of the customized models will be built, symbolic of Rolls-Royce's 100-year history. The special-edition car goes on sale Oct. 1, with pricing expected to be announced in July.

Archibald notes that at the bottom of the recession in 2009, Rolls-Royce made a commitment to the future by hiring 200 additional employees for its Goodwood, U.K., factory to assemble a new Ghost model, which has been a boon to Rolls' sales.

About 80% of Ghost buyers are new to Rolls-Royce. Virtually all Ghost buyers drive the car themselves, eschewing a chauffeur, more commonly found behind the wheel of a Phantom.