China’s wealthy are facing a massive problem: the density of Mercs, Bimmers and Audis on the streets of Chinese cities is so high that they are suffering from ‘status inflation’. In other words, there’s room for more differentiation.
This is loosely what chairman Huang Yi of Chinese dealership Zhongsheng Holding said after his company got majority ownership – seventy percent – in German Mercedes-tuner Carlsson recently. Having spent a lot of time on the roads of a small Chinese city – it is home to ‘only’ 1.4 million people – myself in recent months, I can confirm this is actually true. Drive a normal A4, C-Class or 3-Series in urban China and you stand out just about as much as an M&M inside a bag of M&Ms.
That’s why Zhongsheng has “aggressive” plans with Carlsson. The Germans are to continue to develop exclusive models based on Mercedes products, but, moreover, the intention is to start up dedicated production facilities in China. Here the company will focus on the development of aftermarket products and accessories, both for Mercs and other brands in the Zhongsheng portfolio, which includes Porsche, Volvo and Lexus.
I’m quite positive Carlsson will be a success in China, as I’ve already noticed that shiny aftermarket rims are a big deal over there. Carlsson is definitely able to supply those, but big flashy rims isn’t what their catalogue is limited to. Next to the performance tuning, which they do quite successfully, their core business offer is personal customisation. That’s to say, Carlsson can go as far as the customers wants them to, which has led to a highly varied portfolio of vehicles, ranging from “not bad” to preposterous monstrosities. I’ve been so kind to supply you with a sample.
I’m sure China’s rich and
famous tasteless will be looking for new ways to distinguish themselves further.