April 19 (Bloomberg) -- Automobili Lamborghini SpA will probably sell more supercars in China than in the U.S. for the first time this year, a sign of the Asian country’s growing importance to luxury-car makers.
The Aventador LP 700-4, priced at 255,000 euros ($364,000) in Europe, has sold out the first 18 months of production, and China accounts for a fifth of buyers so far, Chief Executive Officer Stephan Winkelmann said in an interview today at the Shanghai auto show. Sales may grow further when deliveries start in the third quarter.
“I believe that China will become our most important market this year,” Winkelmann said. “Customer feedback on the Aventador is sheerly incredible here. There’s more to come when the car visibly arrives.”
Luxury-car makers, including Bayerische Motoren Werke AG and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz, are recording surging demand in the world’s largest car market, as growing wealth defies the government’s efforts to clamp down on conspicuous consumption. The U.S., traditionally the stronghold of luxury-auto demand, is suffering from the after effects of excessive spending during the real estate boom.
“You’ve got a growing number of millionaires and billionaires that are prepared to show their wealth,” said Ian Fletcher, a London-based analyst with IHS Automotive. “It doesn’t help that the U.S. has become awash in $300,000 cars off the back of the bubble. Everyone who wanted a Lamborghini Gallardo has one by now, while in China it’s a new toy thing.”
Luxury-car sales in China may rise 20 percent this year, while the overall passenger-vehicle market’s growth could slow to about 12 percent, according to industry researcher J.D. Power & Associates.
“The premium segment is probably going to grow faster than the overall volume sector” in China, BMW’s sales chief Ian Robertson said in Shanghai. “We expect strong double-digit growth for the full year.”
The prospects have prompted expansion plans by high-end carmakers. Volvo Cars, the Swedish carmaker owned by Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., is considering building a second production plant in China to meet unexpected demand, Chief Executive Officer Stefan Jacoby said today in Shanghai. Mercedes aims to double car sales in China to 300,000 by 2015, Klaus Maier, the head of Mercedes’ operations in China, said today.
The Aventador, replacing Lamborghini’s top-of-the-line Murcielago model, has a 700-horsepower V12 engine that surges to 100 kilometers (62 miles) per hour in 2.9 seconds. The Volkswagen AG division, which competes with Fiat SpA’s Ferrari, wants to decide by the end of the year whether to add a third model to complement the Aventador and Gallardo lines.
Sant’Agata Bolognese, Italy-based Lamborghini is counting on the Aventador to help capitalize on surging demand for luxury autos in the world’s largest auto market. The VW unit is aiming to more than double China-based dealerships to 20 this year from nine in 2009, the CEO said.
Lamborghini wants to use a customer reception in Shanghai today to further stoke demand for the Aventador. The carmaker will use the event to present a special edition called the Gallardo LP 550-2 Tricolore, limited to 150 cars to mark the 150th anniversary of Italian unity, the CEO said. The Gallardo LP 550-2 will be mainly sold across Asia.
Global sales at Lamborghini fell 14 percent last year to 1,302 autos as the carmaker ended production of the Murcielago in May 2010. Chinese deliveries more than doubled to 206 cars from 80 in 2009.
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