Matt Hlavin, an entrepreneur in Cleveland who owns seven businesses, mostly in manufacturing, bought three Mercedes last year: a $237,000 SLS AMG and a $165,000 S63 AMG for himself, and a $97,000 GL550 sport utility vehicle for his wife.
"I look at it as, I don't have a boat," Mr. Hlavin said. "I feel confident about the economy and about my business."
(Read more: The road ahead in autos: Luxury wins)
A legion of buyers like Mr. Hlavin, buoyed by a growing economy and a soaring stock market, are shedding whatever reluctance, or self-imposed restraint, they had during the recession by entering showrooms and leaving with trophy cars.
"Luxury is not a dirty word anymore," said Robert Ross, an automotive consultant with Robb Report, a lifestyle magazine for wealthy readers. "In 2008, luxury was a dirty word."