Mercedes, BMW chase ultra rich clients with new high end cars

Sun Apr 20, 2014 11:50am EDT
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BEIJING (Reuters) - Premium auto maker BMW (BMWG.DE: Quote) unveiled a luxury concept sedan in Beijing on Sunday, to gauge customer appetite for a car that would cost more than German manufacturer's current flagship 7 series limousine.

The 5 meter long vehicle, officially called the "Vision Future Luxury" but also referred to as the 9-series, is aimed at a growing class of ultra wealthy clients which are coveted by rival brands such as Bentley.

Ian Robertson, BMW Group's board member responsible for sales and marketing said the car is being presented the Auto China show in Beijing as a way to test customer opinion in the world's largest car market.

"There are a number of elements in that car and we will gauge what people say and then we will take a view," Robertson said, declining to comment on whether the vehicle, which featured carbon fiber, lime wood, and aluminum, will ever go in to production.

Robertson said that there may be a market niche for cars costing somewhere in the range between 150,000 euros and 300,000 euros and that Chinese clients in particular loved large luxurious cars.

Around half of tall the 7-series flagship models made by BMW end up being sold in China, Robertson said. BMW Group's sales in China are up 25 percent in the first quarter. For 2014 Robertson said he expects BMW Group to achieve low double digit growth.

The luxury passenger vehicle segment in China grew 20 percent last year, outpacing volume sales growth which rose 14 percent to reach 21.98 million units according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

BMW's effort comes as rival Daimler (DAIGn.DE: Quote) is also testing appetite for reviving its disbanded high-end Maybach brand, and as the number of millionaires across the globe continues to rise.

Since mid-2012, the number of millionaires worldwide has grown by nearly 2 million, the vast majority of them in the United States and Asia, Credit Suisse said in its World Wealth Report.   Continued...

A BMW Vision Future Luxury concept car is displayed during its world premiere ceremony at Auto China 2014 in Beijing April 20, 2014. REUTERS/Jason Lee