Ultra-Luxury Carmakers Set Sights On "Red" Chongqing

    With more top luxury brands putting a greater emphasis on southwestern China, where consumers are still at a relatively early stage of high-end consumption, booming Chongqing is fast becoming a critical market.
    Jing DailyAuthor
      Published   in Fashion

    Municipality's First Rolls-Royce Dealership To Open Next Month, With Aston Martin Hot On Heels#

    Rolls-Royce sales increased 200 percent in China last year (Image: PR)

    With more top luxury brands putting a greater emphasis on southwestern China, where consumers are still at a relatively early stage of high-end consumption, booming Chongqing -- with a population of nearly 30 million -- is fast becoming a critical market. As Jing Daily wrote earlier this year, over the course of 2011 a number of luxury brands have, or are soon to, open locations in the massive municipality, including Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada and Cartier. But as quickly as fashion labels are entering the Chongqing market, the auto market appears to be developing at an equally impressive rate.

    This year, Lamborghini and Brabus have opened dealerships in Chongqing, following the lead of relative "early adopters" such as Ferrari and Maserati. In the months ahead, Chongqing's auto-obsessed elite is set to get their first Aston Martin dealership, and next month, Rolls-Royce will make its debut there.

    Coming off a record 2010 in which Rolls-Royce sold 2,711 vehicles in China, a 200 percent increase over 2009, the automaker's expansion into Chongqing will be, according to local media, a "watershed moment, launching a new phase in Chongqing's ultra-luxury auto industry." The second Rolls-Royce dealership in southwest China (after Chengdu, Sichuan province) and twelfth in the Greater China region, Zheng Jinlan, Greater China general manager, recently said that the new location shows that "Rolls-Royce puts a great deal of importance on Chongqing and the western region of China." Zheng added that the company's success in Chengdu leaves her "very optimistic about future prospects [in Chongqing]."

    Chongqing's fast-growing economy has created a huge number of newly wealthy, who are eager to catch up with their east-coast peers in terms of high-end consumption. As the new general manager of Aston Martin's upcoming Chongqing dealership, Li Xiaoli (李晓莉) told the Chongqing Morning News this week, "In recent years, Chongqing has seen rapid economic development, so the environment is good [for businesses]. In every industry, a new breed of wealthy individuals is being created." Li added that Chongqing's Aston Martin location will be the first of five nationwide that the company plans to open as part of its next expansion phase, noting that the dealership will officially launch this October.

    In addition to Rolls-Royce and Aston Martin, another new arrival in Chongqing this year is Lamborghini, which opened its first dealership in the city on a trial basis on March 26. According to sales manager, Ms. Peng, since launching in March the location has averaged 1-2 units sold per month. Also this year, Brabus -- which specializes in customizing Mercedes-Benz, Smart and Maybach vehicles -- established a temporary sales center in July, launching with three models priced between 1.8-3.4 million yuan (US$280,000-528,000).

    With all of the luxury consumption and flashy cars in Chongqing, you almost wouldn't know that it's in the middle of a so-called "red culture" revival. Then again, that didn't stop watchmaker Tianjin Seagull from putting out its $4,600 commemorative CCP wristwatch a few months back.

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