Luxury car sales in overdrive
By Li Fangfang (China Daily)
The Rolls-Royce Ghost, which was made in 1939, is shown at the 2012 Wuhan Motor Show in Wuhan, Hubei province, on Oct 13. [Zhou Guoqiang / For China Daily]
China market is the best route for makers of expensive vehicles who want to rev up profits
"You could never imagine how important the China market is to Bentley," said Nigel Lofkin, factory tour guide and former leather trimmer in the British premium brand's Crewe headquarters.
"Of the eight Bentley Mulsanne Grand Tourers we produce today, six are going to China. The other two were booked by customers from the UK and Saudi Arabia," Lofkin, who has been working for Bentley for 33 years, told China Daily.
However, China's new rich sports-car enthusiasts favor more Bentley's other model, the Continental GT, a two-door grand touring coupe, which hit the market in 2003.
"The Continental GT follows the racing heritage of Bentley. Bentley won four consecutive victories at Le Mans (1927-30) and the Continental GT helped boost our business in China. In the first quarter in 2012, China overtook the United States to be Bentley's largest market," said Lofkin.
The British brand in January announced a global year-on-year growth of 22 percent in 2012 as deliveries to customers increased to 8,510 cars.
Though the US finished 2012 as Bentley's largest market with sales of 2,457 units, a 22 percent increase, China reported a 23 percent increase on the previous year, delivering Bentley's largest-ever sales volume of 2,253 units in the region.
In 2012, four of the 10 Bentley Mulsanne Tourers were purchased by Chinese customers. Seeing the enthusiasm from China, the British brand even debuted its limited edition Royal Diamond Jubilee Mulsanne in April in Beijing, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth's ascent to the British throne. The 60 limited editions were well received by Chinese consumers.
"Actually, in my heart, China is the most important market for Bentley now and in the future," said Lofkin.
"The increasing demand will probably drive China to become Bentley's largest market in 2013," he added.
But the French also know a thing or two about style.