RUF eyes the 'top of the pyramid' in China

Updated: 2012-01-13 10:26

By Nie Peng (

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RUF eyes the 'top of the pyramid' in China

RUF's power couple, Alois and Estonia Ruf, poses for a photo after an exclusive interview with [Photo/Yuan Hui] 

BEIJING -- Young Chinese familiar with computer car games may be familiar with RUF sports cars but have yet had the chance to see the real thing in China until now.

Alois Ruf, president of RUF Automobile GmbH, a German company renowned for its reputation as a performance tuner of Porsche automobiles as well as car manufacturer, said his company would bring surprises to customers at the upcoming Beijing auto show in spring.

Ruf had just finished his "breakfast" at the hotel where he and his wife Estonia Ruf were staying in the past couple of days before the interview at 1 pm on Jan 10.

The grey-haired Ruf, who inherited the company from his father and company founder Alois Ruf Sr., casually spoke fluent American-English.

RUF recently announced its entry into the China market during the 9th China (Guangzhou) International Automobile Exhibition. The one-week show, one of the country's top three motor shows, opened to the public in late November in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong, a southern coastal province and China's traditional trade powerhouse. RUF brought four models to the event: CTR3, Rt12R, Freiheit and RXL.

RUF's Chinese sales team said they have already received some enquiries and between 20 and 30 customers, mostly CEOs, are interested in the cars. The company is ready to take orders once procedures are cleared and they get the official permission to sell cars in China.

RUF eyes the 'top of the pyramid' in China

A Feiheit is presented at the 9th China (Guangzhou) International Automobile Exhibition. [Photo/Provided to]

Ruf expected Freiheit, which is especially designed for the China market, to bring in the biggest volume of sales in the country.

After a buyer books a RUF car, he usually needs to wait between eight months and a year to get the car, depending on the configurations he chooses, Ruf said.

RUF-enhanced Porsche cars are well-known to sports car fans in western countries, but it's a different story in China where the automobile industry has a short history and car racing is still young.

World racing events, including Formula One, FIA GT, Le Mans and WTCC have all come to China but it seems that Chinese are far less enthusiastic about racing than their western counterparts.

Tian Yongliang, a motor racing columnist, wrote in the December edition of the Chinese-language Auto Magazine that racing organizers were racking their brains to figure out ways to attract people to the events held in the country.

According to Tian, F1 tickets were offered by big enterprises as a bonus to backbone employees, who in turn took the opportunity to socialize with people rather than enjoy the sport itself. Primary and middle school students were subsidized to watch the event, he added.

What China lacks are racing fans who really enjoy the sport, Tian wrote.

China has been the world's largest auto market since 2009, when full-year sales, driven by government incentives such as tax rebates for small cars, soared 46 percent to 13 million units. Following a 32-percent growth in 2010, growth of the country's auto market slowed sharply to less than 3 percent in 2011. The decline came as China's economic growth slowed down and the government began to adjust stimulus policies favoring the industry to address problems such as overcapacity and traffic congestions.

All that said, Ruf has his own reasons to be confident about his "daily usable sports cars".

He told a little anecdote during the exclusive interview.

Ruf said when he was at the Guangzhou show promoting his posh cars, a young Chinese walked up to him and said, "Hello! Are you Mr Ruf?"

Ruf was shocked that someone who was so young and could hardly speak English living in a country where even RUF cars were something quite new to many of its people, recognized him on the spot.

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