Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, the No. 1 seller of premium cars, introduced limited Lunar Year of the Horse editions of its M-model sedans aimed at China’s luxury customers amid slowing growth in the second-largest economy.
The M-model cars are part of the Horse edition series of vehicles BMW will start selling in China this year, Clyde Zhu, BMW China’s vice president of marketing, said in an interview in Beijing. These include additions to the company’s 3- and 7-series, and a new model, details of which he declined to reveal, in the fourth quarter.
The introduction of BMW’s highest-priced cars in China comes at a time when President Xi Jinping has ordered officials to curb lavish spending and stepped up investigations into graft as the Communist Party pushes an austerity drive. Luxury spending in the nation last year rose at the slowest pace since at least 2000, according to Bain & Co., as demand for items from Swiss watches to expensive liquor slumped.
“BMW’s M series is in the acceptable frame within the China market,” said Klaus Paur, Shanghai-based global head of automotive at researcher Ipsos. “The flashiness is less dramatic than if you have a Ferrari or a Lamborghini. It is, in a certain sense, much more discreet.”
The BMW M6 runs on a V8 engine and goes from zero to 100 kilometers (62 miles) per hour in 4.1 seconds and has a top speed of 250 kilometers per hour, the Munich-based company said.
BMW is offering six units of the M6 priced at 2.77 million yuan ($458,000) each and 30 M5 models costing 1.98 million apiece. The cars feature a monogram of the Chinese character for horse on the headrests and play up BMW’s Chinese name, which means “precious horse.”
Deliveries in China climbed 20 percent for the carmaker last year, outperforming the passenger vehicle market’s 16 percent growth. Sales of BMW’s M models made up fewer than one percent of the group’s China total in 2013 and the car will remain a niche product, Zhu said in the Jan. 27 interview.
Sales of ultra-luxury brands were mixed in China last year, with Volkswagen AG’s Lamborghini and Bentley and Fiat SpA’s Ferrari reporting fewer deliveries than in 2012, while Porsche, Maserati, BMW’s Rolls-Royce and British sportscar maker Aston Martin saw expansion.
China’s economic growth slowed in the fourth quarter as gains in factory output and investment spending eased last month. Chinese stocks fell to a five-month low on Jan. 20 after the National Bureau of Statistics reported gross domestic product rose 7.7 percent in the October-to-December period from a year earlier, compared with 7.8 percent in the third quarter.
The nation’s vehicle sales growth may slow this year to 8 percent to 10 percent, from 14 percent in 2013, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said Jan. 9.
“The big role is really to gain brand enhancement for both BMW and M,” Zhu said. The M5 and M6 are “the halo cars, flagship cars for M and also for BMW,” he said.