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Rolls-Royce, Bentley strike while the iron’s hot at Auto China 2012

April 25, 2012

Rolls-Royce Ghost Six Senses concept car


Automakers such as Jaguar, Land Rover, Range Rover, Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Aston Martin are tapping the growing luxury market in China by releasing new vehicles at the Auto China 2012 car show and relying on press hype and social media to create awareness.

Luxury auto brands flocked to Beijing this week to unveil new models, special-edition vehicles and concept cars. With a growing number of luxury consumers emerging in Asia, it seems beneficial for automakers to release notable vehicles that will create brand recognition in China and in turn promote the news via digital channels to reach a worldwide audience.

“I think auto shows are less about selling certain vehicles than they are about building excitement and prestige for a brand,” said Ron Kurtz, president of American Affluence Research Center, Atlanta.

“Auto China 2012 is the largest auto show in China, the world’s largest market for new car sales, and the show is located in China’s capital city, which is a major international media center,” he said. “Thus, the show draws great attention from around the world and provides international media exposure.”

Auto China 2012 runs April 27-May 2.

Full throttle
Luxury automakers began releasing their latest models over the weekend in conjunction with the international auto show.

British automaker Land Rover’s Range Rover exhibited its Range Rover Evoque Special Edition with model, singer and fashion designer Victoria Beckham at an event in Beijing over the weekend.

Range Rover design director Gerry McGovern and Ms. Beckham at the launch event

There will be 200 of these vehicles produced worldwide, which hints that Range Rover made this vehicle mainly for publicity (see story).

Meanwhile, Jaguar Land Rover used Auto China to introduce its new Engineered to Order division that will extend the Jaguar and Land Rover brands by creating more special-edition models and personalization options. This team was responsible for the Jaguar XJ Ultimate.

Jaguar XJ Ultimate

Jaguar focused on this ultra-luxury vehicle at Auto China that offers a 3.0-litre V6 supercharged petrol engine and increased comfort for backseat passengers.

Jaguar XJ Ultimate backseat

Rolls-Royce presented two new vehicles to the Chinese market, which is the company’s largest market, per the brand.

The Ghost Six Senses concept car, a bespoke model that meets the standards of a Rolls-Royce vehicle but “takes it to a new level of sensory indulgence," appeared at the show.

Ghost Six Senses concept car

Rolls-Royce also debuted its Phantom Extended Wheelbase that completes the Phantom Series II family. This follows the launches of Phantom Saloon, Phantom Coupé and Phantom Drophead Coupé at the Geneva motor show in March.

Phantom Extended Wheelbase

The automaker is marketing its models to the Asian market as the brand continues to grow there, per Rolls-Royce. There were three new showrooms in China this year and five more opening in the near future.

China is now the largest market for British automaker Bentley Motors, which explains its presence at the auto show.

In fact, Bentley saw an 84 percent sales increase quarter over quarter in China during the first quarter of 2012, according to the automaker.

Bentley showed its EXP 9 F SUV concept car for the first time in Beijing.

Bentley EXP 9 F SUV concept car

The automaker’s Continental range that includes the Continental GT V8 and the Continental GTC was also on display.

Meanwhile, Bentley chose to open its Beijing Sanlitun Village dealership over the weekend, now the largest brand dealership in Asia.

The automaker also created a vehicle exclusively for the Chinese market called Mulsanne Diamond Jubilee Edition that celebrates British Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday.

Also, British automaker Aston Martin showed three special-edition Year of the Dragon cars created for the Chinese market. These vehicles include the DBS Volante, Virage Coupe and V8 Vantage S Coupe.

Aston Martin auto show exhibit

Meanwhile, Lamborghini presented its new SUV “super athlete” concept model called Urus, named for the large, wild ancestors of domestic cattle.

Lamborghini Urus

Ferrari disclosed its HY-KERS project at Auto China. The engine design project hopes to allow a sports car to increase power while reducing emissions.

HY-KERS project video

Other automakers were present at Auto China this year. For instance, BMW premiered its i8 Concept Spyder with eDrive, which designates the car as an electric plug-in hybrid.

Also, Mercedes-Benz presented the new generation G-Class.

Maserati is ending its showing of its Kubang SUV concept at Auto China since it first showed the vehicle at the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show. After this event, the concept car will be retired and the model will appear again as the finished product at the end of 2013.

In addition, Audi presented a themed concept vehicle based on its Q3 model called the RS Q3 concept, which “interprets the character of the compact SUV in a very special way.”

Trip around the world

Above all, it seems that luxury automakers are looking to impress the Chinese market as they would any other market.

It is likely that Range Rover, Aston Martin and Bentley may gain the most attention due to their special-edition vehicles, though Bentley’s decision to market a vehicle in China for the British queen seems unmatched.

“The Chinese market for luxury cars seems to be attracted to what is different in style and performance and what offers prestige,” Mr. Kurtz said.

Most luxury brands seem to be banking on press hype, email and social media marketing to create global awareness of these new models released in china.

Many of these brands took to their Facebook pages to share news, photos and videos to their followers. Twitter is also being used as an extension of the Facebook promotion.

For example, Land Rover seems to be on top of their game concerning its appearance at Auto China.

The automaker set out on The Journey of Discovery that ended in Beijing April 23 to celebrate the production of the one millionth Land Rover Discovery vehicle.

This journey aimed to raise $1.61 million for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

In addition, Land Rover posted a two-minute, 30-second video on its YouTube page that summarized the trip and showed the arrival of the team into Tiananmen Square in Beijing April 23 in time for the auto show.

Jaguar also posted a YouTube video that showcased the updated ultra-luxury XJ model.

In addition, Lamborghini previewed its Urus luxury SUV with a powerful video that shows how the creators of the vehicle used the four elements - earth, water, wind and fire - to bring the car to life.

The social media marketing done by luxury automakers could be to hone in on Chinese luxury consumers who are tech-savvy.

It seems that these automakers are looking to the global market place more than ever and showing that China is an important part of their future.

“China is now the world’s largest market for new car sales,” Mr. Kurtz said.

"The luxury car segment is an important and growing segment of the overall Chinese car market," he said. "Auto companies are making large investments in new production plants in China."

Final Take
Tricia Carr, editorial assistant on Luxury Daily, New York