Asia's rich crave luxury hand-crafted cars from Malaysia
By Anuradha Raghu
KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - The global economic doldrums may have weighed on businesses around the world, but in Malaysia a luxury hand-crafted carmaker struggles to keep up with demand as orders pour in from China and the Middle East.
Some customers are willing to wait nearly two years for their Bufori vehicle, which costs anywhere from $150,000-$350,000 and can contain unique touches at the buyer's request, ranging from built-in vaults to pearl-studded interiors.
One such customer is eHong Tan, a Malaysian green technology entrepreneur and tea connoisseur, who asked for her Bufori to be fitted with tea-making and aromatherapy features.
"I love drinking Chinese tea. The car allows me to make tea and drink it while I'm traveling," said Tan, adding that both are "unique and satisfying" creature comforts that she had always wanted.
The hefty price tag does little to dampen the car's popularity among Asia's rich, whose number of high net worth individuals overtook North America for the first time last year as wealth in Thailand and Indonesia surged almost ten percent, according to the Asia-Pacific Wealth report.
Bufori's founder and managing director, Gerry Khouri, said he first started the company in his native Australia in 1987, but decided to move to Malaysia in the early 90s when demand from the region began to jump.
In the past three years, orders for his Buforis, which he says is the only fully handmade car produced in Asia, have steadily risen 15-20 percent each year.
"China and Middle East are probably our two biggest markets right now," said Khouri, adding that he also gets orders from Southeast Asian countries, Hong Kong, Japan and Europe. Continued...