Rolls-Royce, one of the world's leading luxury carmakers, plans to sign more dealerships in second-tier mainland cities, expanding its turf in a market that has the potential to become the world's largest by 2014.
We will authorize dealerships in Shenzhen and Hangzhou soon," said Jenny Zheng, the firm's general manager for China. "After that, we will enter more second-tier cities."
A relative latecomer to the Chinese mainland market, Rolls-Royce now has four dealerships in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu.
We will continue to increase our footprint," Zheng told China Daily, but did not identify which cities the company is eyeing.
Rolls-Royce, which produces tailor-made luxury cars, sold 70 cars on the mainland in 2006, a 70 percent increase year-on-year.
With more and more people joining the "super-rich club", the Chinese mainland has moved atop the agenda of the world's luxury brands, said Sin Yat-ming, a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
The demand for luxury cars seems to be on a sharp rise, he said, citing the fact that celebrated brands such as Porsche and Mercedes-Benz, with price tags of at least 2 million yuan, were quickly snapped up at a Shanghai vehicle exhibition in April.
The mainland is expected to become the largest luxury market in the world by 2014, information-provider TNS predicted.
Second-tier cities would be the new battlefield.
"The competition (among luxury brands) used to be in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai. Now it's moved to smaller ones, where an increasing number of consumers are eager to show their taste by arming themselves with everything ranging from clothes, property and golf to cars," Sin said.
But Zheng said mainlanders still know very little about Rolls-Royce.
"They know our products are good, but they can't elaborate on how good they are. The lack of in-depth knowledge is obvious, compared with the buyers of Hong Kong and other mature markets," she said.
Rolls-Royce buyers have a great deal of autonomy in choosing their vehicle designs. Zheng said that about 90 percent of the company's mainland sales are tailor-made.
"Customers can choose their favorite colors, add a golden lining, or even craft their signature or company logo on the body of their car," Zheng said.