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Aston Martin roars into China

02-Feb-2010 • Bond Style

Amid the glamor of Jinbao Jie, Beijing's answer to Fifth Avenue, luxury car showrooms dot the road like convenience stores, with new storefronts popping up as China's roaring economy begets a generation of auto enthusiasts with money to burn, explains China's Global Times.

Last week's opening of the biggest flagship showroom in Asia staked British manufacturer Aston Martin's claim for a share of Beijing's nouveau-riche cash, placing its bets on China as their next big market while established clients suffer the lingering effects of a severe recession.

"The economies of other Asian countries are in a very different state than China," said Matthew Bennett, regional director of Aston Martin Asia-Pacific. "We see a tremendous energy and interest in luxury brands here."

Bennett cited China's rising enthusiasm as the rationale behind a number of the brand's recent decisions, including the selection of China as the first port of call in Asia for its new four-door Rapide model, and the imminent move of their Asia headquarters from Japan to China. Bennett believes that China, following a 70 percent sales increase from 2008, will be the number-one market in Asia within 18 months.

Carson Guo, president of Aston Martin Beijing, think they're perfectly positioned to capture a clientele interested in aesthetics, charm and craftsmanship over the horsepower offered by competitors like Ferrari.

"Thirty percent of our customers are former Ferrari owners who sold their cars," Guo claimed, pointing to Ferrari's tendency to sacrifice amenities to increase speed. "They didn't want to be associated with that playboy lifestyle anymore and were looking for something a little more gentlemanly, something more for daily use."

Bennett believes their quality will speak for itself once the Chinese become more acquainted with the brand, especially as celebrity association – from James Bond to contemporary Chinese luminaries like Chen Baoguo, who cut the ribbon at the showroom opening — whets China's appetite for the automobile.

Bennett admits a variety of obstacles exist – from the nuances of importation law to translating documents into putonghua – especially when rival Ferrari has held a sixteen-year foothold in China, as opposed to Aston Martin's two-year presence. But he holds no doubt of China's continued ascent through the ranks of countries the world over where the brand operates.

"There are, of course, other cars in this price bracket," he said, "but when you've reached that level of success you don't just want something with four wheels that goes fast — you want that true English GT sports car."

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