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Italian Motors marks 10 years in China, says luxury car market growing
( 2003-10-27 15:01) (Agencies)

Italian Motors Ltd. celebrated 10 years of business in China with a parade of sleek Ferraris through the streets of central Beijing, as company officials predicted China's luxury car market will grow in coming years.

"China is a country which is developing its economy very fast. For luxury cars or sports cars like Ferrari, this is the right moment to be in the market because many Chinese customers love Ferrari and they're ready to buy," Piero Ferrari, son of Ferrari founder Enzo Ferrari, said.

"We're looking with a lot of interest to this country. I think the market can be a very important market for Ferrari."

The lavish celebration at the Great Hall of the People, the setting for top level official meetings, also marked the launch of the Maserati Quattroporte, a new high-performance sedan combining sports car functions with luxury sedan features.

Maserati is developed by Italian Motors' sister company AutoItalia Ltd.

Since Italian Motors first introduced the top-tier sports car brand to the Chinese market in 1993, close to 70 Ferraris have been sold to mainland Chinese owners, company officials said.

And nearly 30 Maseratis have been purchased by Chinese in the past 10 years.

"Most of the cars have been sold in the last four years. It's because of China's rapid economic growth," said Robert Yang, a sales manager for Ferrari's China distributor.

Each vehicle costs an average of 3 million yuan (361,000 US dollars), a large portion of which is taken up by import tariffs, said Harold Chung, head of Ferrari's dealership in Beijing, the Beijing Tengfei Motor Service Ltd.

"The portion of Ferrari and Maserati owners who are Chinese will be greater and greater in the future," Chung said.

The event was to have lured approximately 20 Ferrari owners from Hong Kong and another 20 from mainland China to show their cars in the parade, but most of the participants were Hong Kong owners.

Mainland Chinese owners refused to be interviewed and Ferrari officials hesitated to point them out.

"Of course they don't want their money to be seen," said a Hong Kong Ferrari owner surnamed Feng. "In the mainland, you can't be sure how the money was made."

Some of China's wealthiest men have been jailed for tax evasion and illegal business practices after becoming high profile.

Most mainland Chinese owners were businessmen, said Chung, who refused to elaborate.

In a stark display of the widening gap between the rich and poor in China, crowds of onlookers gaped as some two dozen shiny black, red and yellow Ferraris parked outside the Great Hall.

Among them was Yang Ke, 25, a migrant worker from neighboring Tianjin city who could not imagine being able to afford such an expensive car in his lifetime but who did not resent China's nouveau riche.

"The gap between the rich and poor is inevitable. It exists in other countries too, but the rich in China should pay more taxes and donate to the poor like they do in the West," Yang said.

"If they work hard for their money, then it's OK, but many of them do not make their money honestly. Chinese society is not fair like in the West."

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