Lamborghini has reaffirmed its plans to unveil an SUV concept at the upcoming Beijing Auto Show in April. The Italian company said that the reason why it opted for an SUV model is the car buyers’ preferences in China.
“Chinese customers love their big cars”, Christian Mastro, Lamborghini’s general manager for the Asia-Pacific region, told Bloomberg News. “All the brands are making cars more specific for the Chinese market.”
It’s a fact that has been noticed by other luxury carmakers, such as Bentley. VW Group’s other exclusive brand, will also unveil its first-ever SUV concept next month at the Geneva Motor Show. It plans to roll out the production version in 2015, one year ahead of Lamborghini’s successor to the 1980s LM 002.
Giuliano Noci, vice director for the China campus of Milan Polytechnic, says that, unlike many Europeans or Americans customers, Chinese car luxury car buyers find a Lamborghini or Bentley SUV entirely natural: “Since wealthy Chinese consumers have a limited history with the European brands, the luxury carmakers can dare something new.”
This strategy has worked brilliantly for Porsche since 2002, when it launched the first-generation Cayenne. Despite being received with mixed feelings by the press, it went one to become the Stuttgart-based company’s bestseller: it now accounts for nearly 50 percent of total sales, and in China, it has a one-year waiting list.
IHS Automotive forecasts luxury SUV sales in China will increase by 49 percent by 2015 to 265,200 units. That’s almost three times the global rise in the rest of the world, which is expected to increase by 18 percent over the same period.
“SUVs are just a great interest for a lot of people because of the driving position –above everyone else- and also because of the road conditions in some fast-growing economies”, says IHS analyst Ian Fletcher.
He adds that SUVs are more profitable for carmakers because they carry a higher price tag, while at the same time lowering development costs by borrowing parts from other models. The latter is exactly what Porsche did with the Cayenne and its cousin, the VW Touareg.
Sales and profits is the best motivator, even if initially their CEOs have different plans. That’s why Lamborghini, Bentley and Maserati are going ahead with the once unthinkable by rolling out SUVs.
These companies may not gather the interest of some traditional customers, such as three-time Bentley owner Ronald Venn from London, who says that he would never buy a Bentley SUV: “I’d go to Range Rover. I go to Bentley for a luxury limousine. I just love the comfort, the power and the ostentatiousness of the engine.”
It’s doubtful whether Crew will sorely miss him, though. His void will be filled by the likes of Shanghai-based real-estate company owner Bill Liu, who recently bought a Range Rover Evoque and owns five sports cars, including a Lamborghini Aventador.
“I would definitely consider such a vehicle”, says Liu, “but it has to be practical and not exorbitantly priced.” Considering that he paid a million bucks for his Aventador, due to high import taxes, Liu’s view on pricing is debatable…
Story References: Bloomberg