Recent Figures Bode Well For Ultra-Luxury Automakers In The Middle Kingdom
With news that car sales in China jumped 81% in October and indications that the top-end luxury auto market in that country remains one of the few bright spots in a still sluggish global economic environment, it is perhaps no surprise that the most exclusive auto brands in the world continue to flock to China and other leading emerging economies. In recent months, we’ve seen companies like Bugatti (whose new Beijing showroom is the first ever to be located outside of France), Lamborghini (which expects China to overtake Italy as the company’s second-largest market within five years), and Rolls-Royce indicate their commitment to brand-building in China through localized marketing and branding efforts.
In markets like China, Rolls-Royce, whose cars are designed more for chauffeur-driven wealthy businesspeople than for sports car enthusiasts — who tend to favor the aforementioned Bugattis and Lamborghinis — are the natural choice for the country’s predominantly middle-aged ultra-rich. With the cultural component inherent in having a chauffeur, which also extends to India, Rolls-Royce is well placed to maintain its image as the car for successful businesspeople in China. As a recent Automobile.com article noted, the rapid expansion of Rolls-Royce dealerships in China reflects the company’s interest in tying “Rolls-Royce” together with “success” in the minds of China’s ultra-wealthy.
[Rolls-Royce has built] six dealerships within China alone, a massive market that continues to grow for the British ultra-luxury marque despite the global economic crisis. Obviously Rolls-Royce is feeling bullish about its Chinese prospects, as it’s expanding yet again with a new showroom in Shenzhen, Southern China, followed up by another one early next year.
“Rolls-Royce is on course to complete its expansion plan in Greater China,” commented Jenny Zheng, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars’ General Manager for Greater China, while speaking at the showroom grand opening. “Only last month, we opened a new showroom in Hangzhou and expect to open another in Ningbo within the next few months.”
During the opening Zheng unveiled the new Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe, the first opportunity potential buyers in Shenzhen have had to see the two-door, four-place grand tourer in the metal.
Rolls-Royce will be selling all four of its models at the new facility, located at the Tian An Cyber Park in the Central Futian District of Shenzhen, a major commercial center, including the Phantom sedan, Phantom Extended Wheelbase limousine, Phantom Drophead Coupe and the fixed head Coupe. The upcoming RR4, a new smaller, sportier model set to launch in 2010, will also be sold into China and the brand’s other showrooms around the world.
Although past success is no measure of future growth in a market as changeable as China, Rolls-Royce — by tightly managing its brand in the China market and maintaining the air of exclusivity that has worked well for other ultra-luxury brands like Bentley and Maybach within China — is well on its way to building the kind of mythical brand that other companies can only dream about. While the efficacy of its country-wide, gradual roll-out scheme will take time to assess, and no clear “#1″ ultra-premium brand has yet emerged in China, Rolls — with its deep China ties (which stretch back more than 40 years) — has a definite leg up on the competition.