Luxury Sports Car Clubs Take Off in China
Looking for an exclusive club just for wealthy owners of luxury sports cars?
Zhang Kuan launched Super (Sports) Car Club (SCC) — China’s first — with some friends in Beijing in August 2009, after he bought his first supercar – a Ferrari. The club has now expanded to 15 branches around the country, including in the city of Chongqing and the provinces of Yunnan, Zhejiang and Fujian. It has about 500 registered members from ages 18 to 60, with women comprising about 10 percent, and 700 registered super cars that include Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Paganis and Aston Martins.
Club activities could include dinners; driving days at circuits in Beijing, Chengdu, and Qingdao; and community service. The club also organizes members to attend big super car races, such as the annual Super Car Carnival in Shanghai.
The club quickly outgrew its owners’ passion: it needed professional staff to organize activities and races and core members no longer had the time to make necessary arrangements and to groom its brand image. In June of this year, Zhang received licensure for Beijing SCC Co Ltd, which now has about 20 full-time staff members.
At the Beijing Sports Car Club, a $220,000 Porsche SE 911 is considered an entry-level model. Members are competing with others who race $3.9 million Tramontanas and $4.3 million Bugatti Veyron 16.4s.
Nonexistent two years ago in China, sports car clubs provide enthusiasts with a venue to demonstrate their vehicles. Not to be overlooked, these clubs also provide automakers an opportunity to win more clients.
“The car culture is developing in China very fast,” said Jose Cremades, the local distributor for Spanish brand a.d. Tramontana. “The older generation still thinks about saving. The new generation thinks about spending.”
Members are usually multimillionaires who have at least one super car worth at least 1.5 million yuan ($234,375).
China’s car clubs differ from overseas counterparts like the Ferrari Club of America and Germany’s Porsche Club Hohensyburg in that they are organized by location, not brand. Mainland club members also are younger and more active, said Tania Cremades, head of China business development at Tramontana, based in Girona, Spain.
The SCC had also built up a relationship with the Automobile Club de Monaco (ACM), one of the oldest super car clubs in the world and needed a venue to receive ACM’s members. SCC purchased a property at Workman’s Stadium in Beijing, which has been converted into an upscale, exclusive bar for SCC members.
More than 150 supercars recently rolled into the Workman’s Stadium property. “The bar is our company’s first property. We established a corporation based on the car club to enable it to operate for a long time,” said Zhang. He commented that he did not like to call the venue a bar because it is more like a home for SCC members. They plan to establish more such bars around the country in the future.
Zhang said they plan to develop the company with four kinds of businesses of which the bar is just the first. A car maintenance center, providing services for members was the company’s second business. The first of these was opened late last month in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region.
The company’s main thrust is to provide services to meet SCC members’ demands. Auto races and luxury shops are both in the works. International car races may even come to China in 2013 thanks to the company.
“Many Chinese have not yet embraced the idea of fast cars,” said Zhang. “We need them to understand what fast cars are about. They are a work of art. I think I am doing a good thing for the country, including developing an auto culture and building a super car club with a Western-style operation.”
photo credit: hotcarszone, qilai shen/bloomberg