British Automaker Says It Will “Imminently” Gain National Import License For China
Although the British luxury automaker Aston Martin isn’t exactly hurting in China — it sold a record 120 cars there last year, a 50 percent increase over 2009 — its presence and market penetration there lags behind fellow countrymen like Rolls-Royce and Land Rover. Currently operating four dealerships in three mainland Chinese cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou), Aston Martin recently projected that China will become its third-largest market, trailing only the U.S. and U.K., within only a few short years. Following a strong showing at this year’s Auto Shanghai, at which the limited-edition, 47 million yuan (US$7.2 million) One-77 sold out before the show even commenced, Aston Martin announced that the company would kick off a more intensive expansion effort in China this year.
This week, an announcement from Aston Martin gave some insight into the automaker’s broader China strategy. According to the Australian, Aston Martin has signaled that it may pursue a market listing in Hong Kong, and will “imminently” gain a national import license in China that could transform the company. From the Australian:
A national import licence in China will enable Aston Martin to build a nationwide dealer network with the intention of following the success of other British-made luxury vehicles such as Rolls-Royce and Range Rover. “Until now the Chinese market has been about limousines and luxury sports utility vehicles,” Dr Bez said.
“The luxury sports car is the next wave. Our priority has not been China. If we had been looking at China we would not have developed as we have in Germany. But there is a change in interest in China and we are arriving there just in time for this.”
He said that Aston Martin might consider opening a factory in China once sales there had reached 2,000 a year, though he does not envisage that within five years.
The company appears likely to consider the Far East for a stockmarket listing when its majority shareholder – private equity investor Investment Dar – moves to sell down its control of the business.
While Aston Martin is making progress in China, and a Hong Kong listing would be in line with recent moves by established Western brands like Prada, the company admits that it has plenty of work to do there. Competitors like BMW and Porsche are deeply entrenched in the China luxury auto market, and despite Aston Martin’s association with the popular James Bond films, brand recognition is still low in mainland China relative to Western markets. However, if it’s expensive, it’s well-built, and it’s got a story to tell, it can be sold in China as long as a company understands the market and its consumers.
As Aston Martin CCO, Michael van der Sande admits, “We are very late to the party in China. We have to get China right in the next couple of years. It will have a significant impact”.