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WHEN it comes to getting their hands on their dream car, some people are willing to

pretend that the economic recession never happened — and will splurge on their dream
car.

So, while car makers have experienced a slump in passenger car sales this year —
hardly surprising, given the 2009 global economic downturn — luxury makes like Audi,
BMW, Porsche, Mercedes and Land Rover are still selling well.

Take the brand new Q5, a sports utility vehicle priced at RM350,000 by German car
makers Audi, launched early this year. You can’t spot one on our roads yet, but that’s not
because no one is buying it.

Hundreds of customers are on the massive Q5 waiting list and will have to wait till June
next year for it to arrive!

“We continue to receive bookings from customers, despite them being told that there is a
huge waiting list. The demand is exceeding supply,” said an Audi salesperson at its
showroom. “The Q5 is very popular and on the dream list of many people, so they don’t
mind waiting for it.”

The Porsche Panamera — a luxury sports car that costs a whopping RM990,000 for the
basic model — was launched here on Oct 3, but the huge price tag has not deterred car
lovers despite the recession.

According to a Porsche salesperson, it sold one car only days after the launch, and also
secured a substantial
number of bookings.

“Porsche customers are usually ultra-rich people, whose fortunes are not affected by
whatever recession is going on,” said the salesperson.

The Lexus RX350, costing RM377,000, is another expensive model launched this year
which has garnered better-than-expected sales. At its launch, the Lexus spokesperson
targeted selling 105 units by year end.

However, as of August, 138 units of the RX350 have been sold.British car makers Land
Rover — whose SUV models are priced from RM250,000 to RM650,000 — have also
benefited in sales.

Malaysian Automative Association (MAA) statistics show that overall sales for Land
Rover was 56 units as of August, higher than its overall sales of 52 for last year.

Although car makers are experiencing a less-than-ideal year in sales, luxury car makers
have performed better than expected.

And it’s all due to the “dream car” appeal among car enthusiasts that car makers have
cleverly cashed in on.

Recognising that customers are willing to fork out a lot on their ultimate dream machine,
car makers put their best effort into developing models that are almost impossible to
resist.
Just take a glance at the new Mercedes-Benz SUV model ML350. How can you not want
that, especially if you have the money? And this baby, introduced in April this year, costs
a massive RM508,888, yet by August, it still managed to sell 31 units.

So — where’s the recession?

New products and services boost


BMW sales
THE better-than-expected sales of luxury cars in Malaysia this year can be attributed to
several factors, luxury car-makers said. For BMW Malaysia Sdn Bhd, 2009 has been
favourable with 2,973 units sold till September.

This is only 31 units or 1.03 per cent less than that achieved in the same period last year
which was 3,004 units. Its corporate communications manager, Sashi Ambi, said the
decline was largely due to models
nearing the end of their life cycle such as the 5 Series, 6 Series, X3 and X5.

As for good sales performance, despite the economic downturn, Sashi partly attributed it
to the German car maker’s new products launched this year.

“The breadth of new models launched recently, such as the new Z4, the 7 Series and our
most recent BMW EfficientDynamics Diesel models, which include the BMW320d, the
BMW520d, and BMW730Ld, together with a handful of motorcycles from our BMW
Motorrad division and the new Mini Convertible, were some new
product offerings that increased our sales this year.

“This is on top of the company’s continuous sales growth in its bread-and-butter 3 Series
model,” he said.

Apart from that, Sashi said dealership initiatives had also helped the brand. The
introduction of the BMW
Premium Selection programme by Auto Bavaria Glenmarie and Ingress Auto BMW
dealerships, which is the country’s first Premium Pre-Ownership programme especially
for BMW cars had been successful in raising the popularity of BMW cars.

Besides those, several marketing campaigns such as the Merdeka Campaign, BMW
Driver Training programme, and the recent BMW EfficientDynamics campaign, had also
been core in generating interest for BMW cars, he said.

“However, the sales of our premium cars do not rely only on product offerings and sales
programmes but also the whole premium experience of owning a BMW.

“In achieving this, we’ve introduced our service programme, the BMW Service+Repair
Inclusive (BSRI) and with its newly added component, the Condition Base Service (CBS)
programme,” said Sashi.

He said the growth of the luxury car industry is always steady but challenging. “The
challenge lies in meeting the most discerning demands of our customers. However, once
this is achieved, the brand will be the least
affected by economic instability.”

This was echoed by UMW Toyota Motor Sdn Bhd president Kuah Kock Heng.
Speaking for Lexus Malaysia, Kuah said although the current conditions are challenging,
the company believed that there will always be a demand for premium products.

“The Lexus is a luxury brand. Our key customers tend to be very high-end, affluent
buyers.

“Such people are generally very discerning about the car they drive. Like the RX350 that
was launched earlier this year, it appeals to the affluent who emphasise quality, safety
and performance.

“Our customers understand how the Lexus philosophy ties into their lifestyle,” he said.

Land Rover Malaysia, which comes under Sime Darby Auto Connexion Sdn Bhd,
credited its good sales performance on competitive pricing and market demand.

A company spokesman said this year’s sales record for Land Rover began from
November 2008, when its new models were launched for 2009.

“Our 2009 sales were accumulated from last November. It will be the same situation this
year, whereby we will be launching our 2010 models next month. The upcoming models
would be for Range Rover, Range Rover Sports, Freelander 2 and Discovery 4. “When
we launch new models, we make sure that the prices are competitive. And whatever new
models we launch are always based on market demand,” said the spokesman.

The spokesman said each Land Rover model has a different target market that, in turn,
possesses different
trends in car-buying. This could also be among the reasons why people can still
purchase premium cars during an economic slowdown.