Gone in 18 seconds: online store sells out million-yuan Maseratis

Italian car-maker launches flagship store on Tmall with 100 Maserati SUV Levante vehicles

Attendees look at the Maserati Levante on the first day of the 86th Geneva International Motor Show in Geneva, Switzerland.  Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

Attendees look at the Maserati Levante on the first day of the 86th Geneva International Motor Show in Geneva, Switzerland. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

 

Italian car-maker Maserati launched its flagship store on Tmall, Alibaba’s online shopping site and the first 100 Maserati SUV Levantes, priced at 999,800 yuan (€137,600), sold out 18 seconds after being put up for advance sale at exactly 3 pm yesterday in China.

Ultra-luxury cars are suffering from China’s slowest economic growth in a quarter of a century, as well as a government crackdown on ostentatious displays of wealth, but online retailing may provide a window of opportunity for high-end autos.

The car is Maserati’s first SUV and is due to officially launch in China in July, and Maserati will add 500 cars to the online offering for advance purchase to meet demand.

Tmall is one of the most popular online shopping sites in China, where buying online is booming. China has 667 million internet users, and it is the world’s largest e-commerce market. Online retail sales in mainland China were worth 3.877 trillion yuan (€530 billion) last year, up by one third on the previous year.

Slow growth and a general austerity campaign has hit the super-cars, although it did rebound slightly in late 2015 on the back of government tax breaks. The number of imported cars in 2015 dropped 25 per cent year-on-year last year, according to data from China Automobile Trading.

BMW-owned brand Rolls-Royce saw a decline of 54 per cent in sales last year year-on-year, while Volkswagen-owned Bentley saw its China sales fall 36 per cent last year.

Maserati’s fellow Italian luxury brand Ferrari said in October that sales in the first three quarters of last year were down 24 per cent to 157 cars.

Bucking the trend is Porsche, which saw its 2015 China sales rise 24 per cent to 58,000 cars.

“Compared with mass-market brands, the ultra-luxury car segment has been hit harder by the economic slowdown,” Beijing-based independent industry analyst Zhang Zhiyong told the Global Times newspaper.

Zhang believes that ultra-luxury cars face limited growth potential in China in the next few years.

“Entrepreneurs, who are the main consumers of ultra-luxury cars, are more vulnerable to changes in the macro-economy,” he said.

Gao Mengxiong, sales director of Maserati China, said Maserati’s customers were relatively young. The average age of Quattroporte drivers was 38 years old, while the average age of Ghibli drivers was 32 years of age. The company has already introduced an English-language slogan here - “Levante The Maserati of SUVs”.

Maserati’s global sales are currently running at around 32,000, below forecasts of 50,000, but CEO Harald Wester said he expects to add around 30,000 cars to sales next year, with China expected to drive strong growth.

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