China to leave US behind in the supercar sales race

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 July, 2011, 12:00am

China is set to overtake the US as the No 1 market for Lamborghini's 350km/h supercars by the end of this year.

The two markets are 'battling month by month ... but there is a good chance that China is going to be the biggest by the end of the year', Automobili Lamborghini president and chief executive Stephan Winkelmann said yesterday.

The Italian carmaker, part of Volkswagen's luxury Audi unit, sold 138 cars on the mainland in the first six months of the year.

That is an increase of 60 per cent from the same period a year ago, Winkelmann said at the opening of a new dealership in Macau yesterday.

Sales in the US, which for years has been the company's biggest market, were 'about the same number' but grew only in single digits in the first half of the year.

Lamborghini sold 206 cars on the mainland last year, 150 per cent of its sales there in 2009, after what Winkelmann called an 'explosion' in demand. 'This year we will get close to 300 cars, at the least,' he said.

That would represent growth of around 50 per cent. The company also sells around 50 cars per year in Hong Kong and expects sales at the new Macau dealership to average 10 to20 cars per year.

'When our expectations were not as high as they are today, we were forecasting, over the long term, up to 500 cars per year in [mainland] China,' he said.

'I think we can do much more than 500 cars,' he said. 'I don't want to put a time frame on it because it's about building up demand. And it's always about producing less than demand.'

The soaring pace of growth on the mainland was all the more remarkable because this year's sales had relied solely on the Gallardo line of cars, which retail at a starting price of about 3.38 million yuan (HK$4 million) and were the 'entry-level' model, Winkelmann said.

Last year's sales also included the higher-end Murcielago, which was discontinued in May of last year and is being replaced by the new 12-cylinder, 700-horsepower Aventador.

The end of production of the Murcielago saw Lamborghini's global sales slip 2.3 per cent to 293 cars in the first quarter of this year.

The first batch of Aventadors is now in production and scheduled to begin deliveries to customers at the end of this year.

The car is built around a carbon fibre shell. It accelerates from zero to 100km/h in 2.9 seconds, has a top speed of 350km/h and burns 11.3 litres of petrol per 100 kilometres during highway driving.

Buyers placing orders for the Aventador must now wait 18 months for delivery and Winkelmann said the company already had about 200 orders from the mainland, where the vehicle sells for a minimum of 6.28 million yuan.

Lamborghini is in the process of doubling its mainland dealerships from nine showrooms and service centres at the end of last year to a targeted 20 by the end of this year.

The company currently has 14 mainland dealerships in operation, with new ones opening soon in the northwestern coal mining boomtown of Taiyuan, in Shanxi province, and Shenyang, in Liaoning province.

And Winkelmann said they may open more in the future. 'We will follow the wealth and if there is an opportunity we will go,' he said.

Mainland Lamborghini buyers are the youngest in the world, with an average age of about 35, Winkelmann said. 'They are entrepreneurs, they are self-made men. They are very young but in China most of the money is young,' he said.