Luxury carmakers cashing in on China

Updated: 2011-06-17 11:13

By Patrick Whiteley and Wang Chao (China Daily European Weekly)

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Luxury carmakers cashing in on China
Christian Mastro, general manager of Lamborghini's Asia-Pacific operations, says Chinese Lamborghini owners are typically 10 years younger than European and American users. [Photos Provided to China Daily]

Daimler AG, the world's second- largest maker of luxury vehicles, reported a 71 percent gain in first-quarter operating profit as growing wealth in China boosted deliveries of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan.

Although demand for Aston Martin, Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Lamborghini, Ferrari and Maserati cars is significantly rising, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi and Lexus account for nearly 90 percent of the sales in China's luxury car market,

In 2010, Mercedes-Benz was the fastest growing premium automaker in China, posting sales of more than 147,670 units, a year-on-year increase of 115 percent. The upward sales trend has continued in 2011, with 70 percent growth in the first five months.

Klaus Maier, president and CEO Mercedes-Benz (China) says the company expects to sell 300,000 units of Mercedes-Benz, smart, Maybach and AMG cars in China by 2015, the year in which the Middle Kingdom will become the German auto firm's biggest market.

"The young Mercedes-Benz products, in particular, have experienced impressive growth, spearheaded by strong sales of the GLK-Class and B-Class, as well as smart, which has witnessed spectacular growth this year," he says. "By the end of May, we had already sold nearly 4,300 units of smart in China, equivalent to total sales for 2010."

The three-pointed star is investing heavily in marketing to the youth market and flew US basketball star Kobe Bryant to the Shanghai show to promote its edgy-looking smart model.


Luxury carmakers cashing in on China
Porsche sold more than 13,800 cars in China last year, an annual growth of 60 percent.

The Shanghai Auto show was a special event for super luxury carmakers, which all say China will soon become their No.1 destination. Unlike in the West, where auto expos are geared more towards media, Chinese car shows are real market places where potential buyers come to order.

Within the first week of the Shanghai show, some luxury car manufacturers reached their quarterly sales targets adding to their recent bumper sales.

Ferrari expects China to soon become its second-biggest market from its current fifth position. In 2010, Ferrari delivered around 300 vehicles to China, a record number for the company and an increase of nearly 50 percent compared with 2009. Mainland sales for Maserati rose 50 percent in 2010 to 400, putting China on course to surpass Italy this year as its second-largest market.

Lamborghini also attracted plenty of attention in Shanghai, but also took a different marketing tact in an effort to exploit China's furious online activity.

The ultra-luxury sports car maker began online sales in May through Taobao, the country's biggest online retailer and posted 17 models priced between 3.58 and 6.49 million yuan on Taobao.

Lamborghini's online push may just be a novel publicity stunt drawing attention to both the Italian motoring company and Taobao but its business in the world's biggest auto market is very serious and successful.


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