Despite government measures discouraging buying big and expensive cars, sales of luxury vehicles continued to soar last year in China, gaining about 70% to over 700,000 units, while the overall auto market grew 32.37% to reach 18.06 million units.
(With no consensus on what " luxury" means for cars in China, we regard any sedan brand "luxury" that sells most of its models above 300,000 Yuan per unit, or 45,540 US dollars. Accordingly, Volvo is a luxury brand while Volkswagen is not–although VW Phaeton has a price tag of no less than 779,000 Yuan).
As conspicuous consumption just began to take off in mainland China, most analysts expect the kind of growth to continue for years. Compared with mature markets, the luxury sector in China is still relatively small.
"While luxury cars account for about 15% of overall car sales in the US and 30% in Germany, they have no more than 5% of the Chinese car market. The growth potential is obvious," Wang Yan, Vice President of Mercedes-Benz China, said in an interview earlier this week.
Let’s run some numbers:
Audi: China sales increased 43.4% from 2009 to 227,900 units.
Bentley: over 800, up 100%
BMW: 158,489, up 84%.
Cadillac: 170,000, up 139%
Infiniti: 11,000, up 137%.
Maserati: 400 (600 ordered), up 60%
Mercedes-Benz: 148,000, up 115%
Rolls-Royce: over 500 in the first 11 months of 2010, up 800%.
Two major under-achievers are Lexus and Acura, selling about 50,000 and 5,000 units, respectively, posting growth rates below the industry average of 32.37%.