Super sports car makers look to ignite passions on the mainland

Updated: 2013-01-03 07:58

By Li Fangfang (China Daily)

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 Super sports car makers look to ignite passions on the mainland

The Volkswagen Scirocco R-Cup final at the 2012 Sports Car Champions Festival in Shanghai in November. Visitors at the event were also able to attend sports car exhibitions, a classic car parade and play digital racing games. Provided to China Daily

Super sports car makers look to ignite passions on the mainland

More racing events held as firms hope to cash in on the need for speed of affluent clients

For China's motorsports fans, there were more opportunities for their hearts to skip a beat in 2012 besides the long-established Formula 1 racing event.

Cities other than exciting Shanghai got the chance to play host to events with roaring cars, beautiful women, flowing champagne and intense competition.

"As a loyal motorsports fan for more than a decade, besides the annual Formula 1 in Shanghai, I have also followed car racing events in Macao, Singapore and Malaysia over the past few years," said Kevin Lin, a senior marketing manager of a Fortune Top 500 multinational company in Beijing.

"I don't have to spend a lot of money and time traveling abroad in order to satisfy my enthusiasm for racing anymore, since there are many different world-class events held on the Chinese mainland," said the 36-year-old Lin. "And I am happy that more of my friends have joined me to experience the roar of the engines, watching fancy cars speed by and cheering on Chinese young racers."

Cristiano Inverni, Asia coordinator of Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo, said, "With China being one of Lamborghini's most important markets worldwide, we are extremely excited to bring our Super Trofeo series to Asia this year, and demonstrate to Chinese consumers yet another dimension of our brand.

"The fact that the Asia series held four of its six events in Chinese cities this year clearly shows Lamborghini's strong confidence in this market and its racing culture."

Competition heats up

The event was held in Ordos in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region this August. It was the Italian super sports car maker's first China race and was followed by three more - Guangzhou in September, Shanghai in October and again in November for the Grand Finale.

"Besides providing Chinese motorsports fans an opportunity to admire the incredibly competitive racing series and experience Lamborghini's brand values, we also want to help China develop its racing culture and give opportunities for young Chinese racers to grow," said Stephan Winkelmann, president and CEO of Lamborghini Automobili.

Winkelmann said he was impressed by the young racers' performances, even though some of them didn't have any racing experience before the event. "The victory going to a Chinese racer indicates the country's potential in motorsports racing, not just auto sales," he said.

Winkelmann said that the event, which started in Europe in 2009, will be held in North America next year, covering all of Lamborghini's major markets.

"The Super Trofeo can help us rapidly improve our brand image, value and knowledge, and through our motorsports activities, we look forward to supporting Lamborghini's growth in China," said Winkelmann.

Besides Lamborghini's Grand Finale in the Shanghai International Circuit in November, the city also hosted the Sports Car Champions Festival, which featured Volkswagen, Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini and Porsche vehicles.

The event included the year-end finals of the Volkswagen Scirocco R-Cup, Porsche Carrera Cup Asia, Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo series and Audi R8 LMS Cup.

The contests, which saw the participation of renowned racers, attracted much attention from Chinese media.

In addition to the four racing events, visitors were also able to experience various activities such as sports car exhibitions, digital racing games and a classic car parade.

"The festival, which showcased the speed and spirit of sports cars in a bold new way, definitely inspired more local customers to reach for a lifestyle related to sports cars and will further stimulate demand in the growing segment," said Markus Nels, director of Sports Car Project China at Volkswagen Group China.

"Through this exciting festival, we want to play an active role in promoting sports car culture here in China, as more people are becoming enthusiasts for speed," said Nels.

Volkswagen established its China sports car division last year, hoping to provide better support to its sports cars sales in the market.

"We want to be a door that opens to more sales and enthusiasm from more Chinese in a segment that has had higher-than-average growth in the past five or six years," said Nels.

The Italian super sports car brand Maserati celebrated the final round of its Maserati Trofeo MC World Series in the Shanghai International Circuit in November, after completing five events in other countries in Europe, North America and Asia.

It was also the first time the sports car maker brought its Maserati-only motorsports event to China.

Thirty-five racers from 15 countries and regions drove Maserati GranTurismo MC Trofeo racing cars, including two drivers from the Chinese mainland.

"Although sports car racing has a long, developed history in Hong Kong, we see increasing enthusiasm on the Chinese mainland in recent years, along with soaring sales of our sports cars," said Christian Gobber, managing director of Maserati China.

"As a sports car brand with the long-term perspective to having a stable foothold in China, one of the largest market potentials in the world, Maserati will always put an emphasis on promoting sports car culture and racing here," said Gobber.

Sales rev up

Booming sales of super sports cars in China were behind the arrival of the motorsports racing events.

Analysts said that China is catching up with the United States to be the top market for super sports cars.

During the past two years, sales of super luxury vehicles saw more than 50 percent year-on-year growth, even though China's overall automobile sales growth slowed to single-digits.

Analysts forecast the trend is expected to continue for at least five to 10 years, with China's super sports car sales accounting for no more than 0.05 percent of overall sales, compared with 0.2 percent in Europe and the US.

China's increasing number of the newly rich in smaller cities will help support continued growth in the sector.

Boosted by the Chinese market, worldwide Lamborghini sales will grow by 10 percent this year despite the global economic slowdown, said Winkelmann. "China and the US are two similar top markets for us," he added.

China is Maserati's second-largest market in the world. The automaker delivered 785 sports cars to Chinese consumers in 2011.

The French ultra-super sports car maker Bugatti said it sold six super sports cars in China in the first three quarters of 2012, a sales record for the brand.

The vehicles included the Veyron Grand Sport, the Vitesse, which made its Asian debut at the Beijing auto show, and the Veyron Super Sport, the fastest street-legal production car in the world with a top speed of 431.1 km per hour.

Bugatti vehicles are recognized by Chinese luxury consumers as the world's most expensive cars, but its inventories have still sold out at each auto show in Beijing and Shanghai in recent years.

Super sports car makers look to ignite passions on the mainland

(China Daily 01/03/2013 page9)