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Ferrari, Maserati, And Porsche Feed China’s Status Hungry Market

Buzzing around China in a BMW, a Mercedes, or a Lexus is nothing in this country anymore , they may as well be Volvos. To impress anybody here you need to roll up in a Porsche, a Ferrari, or a Maserati.

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He told me the Ferrari in front of me costs a million dollars. Of course, I laughed at him. He told me that it can go 350 km an hour. I asked him where someone could drive a car like that. He said Shanghai. I thought of some rich guy in a super fast, million dollar car inch worming through bumper to bumper Shanghai traffic like every other Volkswagen and Honda driving schmuck. This is probably not the image the ultra-premium sports car makers want to project to their new found East Asian market.

Though I have to admit that I was thinking of all those brand new, super-wide highways that China is carving up their countryside with that nobody really drives on yet. Yes, you could drive a car that fast there. Or in the ghost cities . . . but what would be the point of that? Ain’t nobody going to see you out there. I suppose ostentatious displays of wealth are based on the premise that people are going to look at you and say, “Damn, that dude spent a million dollars on that car.” Maybe Shanghai is a better place to drive a Ferrari.

A million dollars is roughly what the average American working man will make in a lifetime, but, apparently, it’s what some rich Chinese spend on Ferraris. The car in front of me was a was a beefed up, truly badass looking cherry red beast that could easily overcompensate for anything anyone who drives it should need overcompensating for ever again. They should have named the damn thing the Ferrari Overcompensator, but its makers instead went with the more vague and less telling “F12berlinetta.”

From Road and Track:

This ultimate 730-bhp V-12 Ferrari with a rear-mounted 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox is Ferrari’s fastest, most powerful road car ever, with a claimed 0–62 mph time of 3.1 seconds and a top speed of over 210 mph.

Yeah, I touched it, left a little finger smear, got a little overcompensation on me.

I was talking with a salesman in one of the super expensive, super sports car showrooms that speckle the main drag that flanks the southeast side of West Lake in Hangzhou. This is probably one of the ultimate window shopping zones in China. It’s well placed location in one of China’s most popular tourist areas gives me the impression that it may be intended to impress visitors than actually being a place to purchase super-uber-ultra-luxury commodities. Along with four or five showrooms dedicated to gut-wrenching expensive cars are others for untouchable, runway-esque clothes and the gaudiest of gaudy monarchist style furniture.

The sports car showrooms have the words Maserati, Ferrari, and Porsche proudly displayed in bright lights on their exteriors. BMWs and Mercedes look plebeian in this landscape. I’m not sure if us visitors to Hangzhou are just taking the bait and proliferating the image the city wants, but this place has become known for these types of cars. Talk about expensive sports cars in China and someone is bound to mention Hangzhou. Whatever the case, this prominently displayed string of showrooms have given the city a reputation for being the place to go to be awed by the prowess of the New China.

I then pointed to a Maserati and asked how much it cost:


As in 360 wan, or 3,600,000 yuan. A touch over $500,000.

Hey, it was only half as much as a Ferrari . . . but was more than likely half as cool as well.

I asked the salesman what his most popular car is, and it took me around to the side of the showroom and pointed to a different Ferrari. 5 million yuan — over $800,000.

I had previously visited two of the other sports car showrooms on this strip, and I was getting the impression that they were all the same company that just set up a bunch of shops side by side, which the salesman confirmed was correct.

I then asked him how many of these cars he actually sells per month. The proper question should have been how many per year. He thought about it for a moment, and said that the company — meaning all four or five showrooms — sell around 120 cars annually.

That’s not much, but it’s enough to have an impact. You actually see people driving around in these cars in China. I’ll repeat this: the Chinese actually drive these cars. They don’t just store them in decked out garages, taking them out for Sunday cruises in the fucking Hamptons. One guy actually just crashed a million dollar F12berlinetta earlier this month. They’re not just driving them in super wealthy and fashionable districts of the big cities either. Albeit rarely, I’ve seen them all over the country. I recently hung out with a guy who I saw get out of a $800,000 Ferrari in Yakeshi, Inner Mongolia — a rundown backwater of a mining town on the fringes of the country.

Of the 7,318 cars Ferrari sold last year, 784 of them were sold in China — which makes it the second largest market for these cars in the world. In 2011, Ferrari had 11 dealerships in China, but they expect to have over 30 by the end of this year.

The rich of China are currently mad for status symbols. As most of this class are nouveau riche, showing their shit off is, apparently, an integral part of having the money to buy it. But the standards have been upped: seeing someone buzzing around in a BMW, a Mercedes, or a Lexus is nothing in this country anymore — the streets are full of these cars — they may as well be Volvos. To impress anybody here you need to roll up in a Porsche, a Ferrari, or a Maserati.


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Filed under: Changing China, China, Hangzhou, Status, Zhejiang

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3720 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

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