Lotus Opened First China Showroom This Past October In Beijing
Just a little over six months after entering the China market, and three months after opening its inaugural Beijing dealership, the British automaker Lotus has made its inland debut in booming Chengdu, Sichuan province. Opening its doors with a grand opening event this past weekend, the new Lotus Chengdu dealership is far larger than its Beijing counterpart, comprising 500 square meters and two floors. Like the Beijing showroom, the Chengdu dealership stocks three Lotus models: the Elise, Evora and Exige, with respective starting prices of 698,000 yuan (US$110,769, 1.3 million yuan ($206,304) and 898,000 yuan ($142,508). In addition to the auto showroom, the new Chengdu dealership sports a licensed merchandise area where shoppers can pick up the full range of Lotus Originals apparel and accessories.
At the grand opening event, following the usual speeches and photo ops, Lotus China execs announced that the first F1-inspired Lotus T125 to go on sale to the public in China will soon become available not in Beijing, but in Chengdu.
While it’s not entirely surprising that Lotus opted for an inland second-tier city for its second China dealership — particularly one like Chengdu, which has a booming luxury industry — it took us a bit off-guard as Lotus China CEO Zhang Lichen had previously said that Shanghai and Guangzhou would get dealerships after Beijing. Zhang obviously has planned to focus primarily on second- and third-tier cities, however, as he said in a speech last October that he plans to open 10 new locations in inland China over the course of 2012. Starting in 2013, Zhang added, Lotus China will add the Esprit to its product mix.
Zhang’s inland China strategy is probably a good idea, as it’s in these second- and third-tier cities where conspicuous consumption is still alive and well. As China Car Times put it in October, “Forget the shiny stereotype that middle to upper middle class city slickers are buying premium brands, the real buyers are in second tier cities such as Wenzhou, Shenzhen, Foshan, Guangzhou and beyond, where there is industry there are bosses buying cars to boost their image.”