China's ultra-wealthy rev up in style

By Yu Qiao (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-12-16 06:59

How are rich people in China showing off their success?

Owning one or more luxury and even ultra-expensive cars appears to be one of the most popular ways.

Boosted by the ever-increasing numbers of people getting rich as a result of the nation's booming economy, demand for these cars is in the fast lane, offering rich pickings for the world's top luxury carmakers.

British brand Rolls Royce, owned by German carmaker BMW, said it expects to sell 70 Phantom vehicles this year in China including Hong Kong which will enable the world's most populous country to unseat Japan as the firm's No 3 single market after the United States and the United Kingdom.

On Thursday in Hong Kong, Rolls Royce delivered its largest order yet 14 Phantoms to Sir Michael Kadoorie's Peninsula Hotel.

To further boost China sales, the brand plans to add three dealerships in Hangzhou, Shenzhen and Chengdu. It now has one each in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou.

In a telephone interview on Friday, Jenny Zheng, general manager of Rolls Royce Motor Cars Greater China, said: "China's thriving economy is creating very successful people in all business areas at a staggering pace. This is a big opportunity for us and other luxury car manufacturers."

"The more important thing is that our customers here are much younger than those in other markets," Zheng said.

Rolls Royce owners in China are on average more than 10 years younger than elsewhere, she added.

Maybach, another ultra-luxury car brand, which is controlled by Mercedes Car Group, is also enjoying fast sales growth in China.

Anthea Wang, a spokeswoman of Mercedes China, said: "Maybach's sales here will more than double this year from 2005," but she declined to reveal a specific figure.

China is very close to one of Maybach's top five markets in the world, she said.

To lure Chinese buyers, Maybach's 62 Special Edition made its global debut at last month's Beijing international auto show. The model retails in China for a cool US$1 million.

Maybach now has two exhibition and sales centres in Beijing and Shanghai. Wang said it is considering building a third centre in Guangzhou "in the near future."

Many of the ultra-luxury cars displayed at the 10-day Beijing auto show were sold, raising more than 100 million yuan (US$12.8 million), a fact that demonstrates the immense purchasing power of rich Chinese people.

However, Yale Zhang, the Shanghai-based director of emerging markets vehicle forecasts for auto consultancy CSM Asia in Shanghai, said ultra luxury cars will account for a tiny ratio of China's entire vehicle market as only those super rich people will buy them.

(China Daily 12/16/2006 page1)

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