Morgan, one of the most famous names in British sports cars, has ramped-up the pace to win over Chinese consumers.
In June, Morgan Motor Co.’s authorized agent, Malvern Morgan Cars (Beijing) Co. Ltd. opened shop for the first time in China. The 320-square meter showroom in Beijing’s Workers’ Stadium featured the first Plus 8 ever sold in China, a Roadster, and the only 75th anniversary edition of the 4/4 in China. “The Morgan cars in the Beijing showroom are the first models imported to China under a commercial license, which means they can be bought by Chinese customers,” says Jim James, Managing Director of Morgan Cars (Beijing).
Morgan officially launched sales in China in June 2012 as part of its five-year plan to sell 500-700 cars annually worldwide. Each Morgan car is made by hand to the customer’s specifications at Morgan’s factory in Malvern, England.
Now, with the import license, a customer can get a Morgan in just six months, instead of having to wait three years. “We sold 12 cars in China in the first year, and we hope to build up to about 50 next year,” James added. In addition to the Beijing showroom, Morgan’s agent has also partnered with a distributor in Chengdu and a distributor in Qingdao.
Even though the growth for premium in China has slowed to 8.34 percent in the first three months, a decline of 80 percent from the same period in 2012, as reported by China Daily, China is still on track to become the world’s largest luxury car market. There has been a steady improvement in the performance of British cars in overseas markets in recent years. In the first quarter of 2012 and the first time in 36 years, the United Kingdom sold more cars abroad than it imported. About 8.1 percent of UK’s total 2012 auto export were to China, compared with 1.4 percent in 2008.
Faced with fierce competition, Morgan is emphasizing its craftsmanship, exclusive image, and 104 years of hand-built style. “We have been competing with Lotus, Rolls-Royce and other brand names that stepped into the market ahead of us,” explains James. “However, Chinese driving enthusiasts are becoming more sophisticated, and we can catch up with handmade, vintage-style authentic British cars. We are currently targeting entrepreneurs and stars.”
Morgan hopes to capture more drivers like Wu Duming, the 43-year-old founder of a menswear brand based in Hunan province. Wu became the first Chinese owner of the Morgan Plus 8, priced at 2.8 RMB ($457,000). “I came across a Morgan car when I went to Britain in 2004 and I liked the look of it. I like the brand’s reputation and the vintage design,” Wu says.
Aside from competition, Morgan’s biggest challenge in China is to educate the market about the history of the brand. “Unlike in Britain where people can blurt out the brand’s name, we need to tell customers that owning a Morgan car is to possess a piece of British motoring history,” says James.
photo credit: morgan