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SINGAPORE - China may overtake the US as Lamborghini's single biggest market in 2011 if the American economy doesn't recover soon.

The United States has traditionally been the Italian super sports carmaker's largest market but it was hit hard by the global economic crisis in 2009. In 2010, total sales of Lamborghini's Gallardo and Murcielago models in the US amounted to 290 units, sharply down from a pre-crisis high of 400 cars.

By contrast, China sold 206 units last year - excluding 60 cars in Hong Kong - and is expected to achieve more than 300 units by the end of this year. So far, after the first three months of 2011, the China market has racked up deliveries of 60 cars.

The surge in Lamborghini's Chinese sales is consistent with the country's increasing appetite for super sports cars in general, according to Wilson Lee, Automobili Lamborghini China's head of operations.

The super sports car segment, which includes other makes such as Ferrari, Aston Martin and Bentley, as well as the SLS and SLR models by Mercedes-Benz AMG, has quintupled in the past five years.

'This market is very new,' says Mr Lee. 'In 2005, only 250 units were sold in the whole of China. This year, the number will go up by more than five times to 1,400.'

Mr Lee explains that 'new money' is behind the explosive demand in this segment, and that the buyer profile is 'generally the same as the rest of the world - except the customers are younger in China'.

'Prior to this, not many people were interested in super sports cars. But from 2005 onwards, wealth accumulated very quickly,' he says.

To illustrate, he points to the overall car market a couple of decades earlier.

'In the mid-1990s to early 2000s, sales of cars were not high. They were less than a million units,' he says. 'Today, Volkswagen alone sells about 1.6 million units, and Audi more than 200,000 units.'

Lamborghini belongs to the Volkswagen Group, which also includes the Audi luxury division. Last year, only around 1,300 Lamborghini cars were sold across the world.

But another reason for the expected spike in Lamborghini's China sales this year is the arrival of the Aventador LP 700-4, the long-awaited replacement for the flagship Murcielago.

There have been more than 100 orders for the more than six million yuan (S$1.15 million) model across China, collected since last December. Deliveries begin from the second half of this year onwards but less than 100 Aventadors are expected to be registered in 2011.

'For the first six months of 2011, we have only one model for sale in China,' says Mr Lee, referring to the 3.6 million yuan Gallardo. 'But the Aventador's introduction will help Lamborghini gain significant market share.'

Global demand for the new Lamborghini is 'very high', so Mr Lee expects to be able to fulfil the deliveries only over about six months.

In Singapore, the Aventador is also a hot-seller with more than 60 orders collected for the S$1.5 million supercar. The car's list price here and in China are about the same because of the taxes levied.

The Aventador will arrive in the Republic sometime in the middle of the year, with a total of about 20 units likely to be delivered this year. Lamborghini Singapore says that any new orders will only be fulfilled from early 2013 onwards.

'Singapore is one of the best markets for Lamborghini relative to its size,' says Mr Lee.

source: motoring.asiaone.com

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