Are auto showrooms on their way out? No, but they are no longer enough to grab sales in China. Luxury automakers are getting creative with new ways to show off their products to Chinese consumers according to the WSJ.
BMW’s Mini opened its first brand “experience center” at the former Shanghai World Expo site last Wednesday. The center, housed in a 17-meter-high glass building, offers a glimpse of the company’s cutting edge models and brand history. A retail store at the center offers lifestyle products such as clothing, shoes, and luggage. The Mini targets young, urban professionals who are more likely to be attracted to a lifestyle brand. More experience centers are slated, in Beijing and Guangzhou.
The Mini experience center comes on the heels of the recent opening of the Mercedes Museum in Beijing.
The Chinese luxury automotive market is very competitive and it is becoming harder to differentiate. “We are currently facing huge challenges in the automotive industry,” said Boris Weletzky, a BMW China executive for retail and dealer development, “It’s becoming very difficult to differentiate premium car models by product substance alone. Therefore we not only need a strong brand with strong products, we also need a more exciting way to support strong products.”
Mini expects the experience to boost sales in China, where it is Mini’s fourth largest market after the UK, the US, and Germany, in the near term. “We want to penetrate the Mini all over China on the solid basis,” said Maximilian Kalbfell, head of Mini China.
The Mini was first introduced in China in 2003 and retails for 225,000 yuan ($36,800) to 500,000 yuan ($82,000). In the first eight months of this year, 16,830 Minis were sold, up 15 percent from the year ago period.
photo credit: mini