Date
20 October 2017

Rolls-Royce eyes ‘majestic’ ride in Year of the Horse

Ultra-luxury carmaker Rolls-Royce Motor is gearing up plans to lure more super-rich customers in China after the nation became the British firm’s top market in terms of sales last year, surpassing the United States. The 2013 growth came despite some worrying signs that the luxury car segment in the mainland could lose traction after a decade of stellar growth. With rivals such as Bentley and Jaguar mapping out plans to beat the potential slowdown, Rolls-Royce is also not far behind in drawing up new initiatives.

In the auspicious Year of the Horse, the UK brand is coming up with the Majestic Horse Collection, a limited number of Bespoke Rolls-Royce Ghosts that take inspiration from classical interpretations of the horse in traditional Chinese art. To further impress affluent Chinese who regard horse as a symbol of vitality and fortune, Rolls-Royce has named the special edition {英驥} in Chinese, using a name that evokes the imagery of splendid ancient Chinese royal family horses.

Each astrological year is also characterized by one of the five elements — metal, wood, water, fire and earth. To be precise, 2014 is the year of the wooden horse. Echoing this theme, the model presents a contemporary re-imagining of the horse in handcrafted marquetry on the car’s wooden dashboard and the exterior is also finished with a hand-made horse motif on both sides.

Dan Balmer, Rolls-Royce’s General Manager for Asia Pacific, told the Hong Kong Economic Journal that the Majestic Horse Collection will have its official debut in China in early March, a perfect timing as the country would have just finished the lunar New Year celebrations and auto sales would enter the peak season. The model will be priced at 7 million yuan (US$1.16 million).

Balmer said his group’s sales in mainland China were up 11 percent last year with total sales surpassing 1,000 units. Given the size of the Chinese market, one in every four Rolls-Royces made in the firm’s Goodwood factory in England would be shipped to China, the executive said.

Rolls-Royce’s network in China includes rich coastal cities like Ningbo, Qingdao, Xiamen and Wenzhou as well as promising central and western cities such as Chengdu, Xi’an, Zhengzhou and Taiyuan. The firm has stepped out of Beijing and Shanghai and established a foothold in the second-tier urban centers where local tycoons are hungry for expensive marques to show off as symbols of success.

Yet the firm also aims to walk a fine line between maintaining its premium brand image and marketing and sales. It remains prudent in expansion, targeting only the most privileged even though it might lead to relatively limited sales increment. The company will open no more than five new stores in the mainland this year. This is in stark contrast to some of its competitors which are boldly tapping the mid- to low-range demand at the cost of losing some of their brand sheen.

In terms of selection of sales partners, Rolls-Royce attaches particular significance to dealers’ connections with the local wealthy class. Balmer revealed that the firm tied up with a partner in Taiwan which had no previous experience in selling luxury cars, but what made the alliance was the dealer’s strong connections with top-end customers through its luxury hotel and antique businesses.

Likewise, Rolls-Royce deploys similar strategy for its mainland expedition. Instead of relying on several large national dealers, the firm tends to cherry pick companies with localized experience and background to handle one or two specific regions — it now has around 20 dealerships in the country. This almost regional exclusiveness allows the uber-luxury brand to maximize its market penetration through tailor-made sales approaches.

– Contact the reporter at [email protected]

RC

EJ Insight writer

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