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Business: Lamborghini's race for China

Lamborghini will probably sell more supercars in China than in the U.S. for the first time this year, a sign of the Asian country’s growing importance to luxury carmakers.

Lamborghini will probably sell more supercars in China than in the U.S. for the first time this year, a sign of the Asian country’s growing importance to luxury carmakers.

The Aventador LP 700-4, priced at $364,000 in Europe, has sold out the first 18 months of production; and China accounts for a fifth of buyers so far, company CEO Stephan Winkelmann said in an interview last week. Sales may grow further when deliveries start in the third quarter.

“I believe that China will become our most important market this year,” Winkelmann said. “Customer feedback on the Aventador is sheerly incredible here. There’s more to come when the car visibly arrives.”

Luxury carmakers, including BMW and Mercedes-Benz, are recording surging demand in the world’s largest car market, as growing wealth defies the government’s efforts to clamp down on conspicuous consumption. The U.S., traditionally the stronghold of luxury-auto demand, is suffering from the aftereffects of excessive spending during the real-estate boom.

“You’ve got a growing number of millionaires and billionaires that are prepared to show their wealth,” said Ian Fletcher, a London-based analyst with IHS Automotive. “It doesn’t help that the U.S. has become awash in $300,000 cars off the back of the bubble. Everyone who wanted a Lamborghini Gallardo has one by now, while in China it’s a new toy thing.”

Demand for luxury

Luxury car sales in China may rise 20 percent this year, while the overall passenger-vehicle market’s growth could slow to about 12 percent, according to industry researcher J.D. Power & Associates.

“The premium segment is probably going to grow faster than the overall volume sector” in China, BMW’s sales chief Ian Robertson said in Shanghai.

The prospects have prompted expansion plans by high-end carmakers.

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