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Bespoke carmaker opens showroom

By Yao Jing  (China Daily)

10:08, June 19, 2013

Wu Duming (in the driver's seat) buys a Morgan Plus 8 on display at Morgan Motor Co's Beijing showroom on Tuesday. Sitting next to him is Sebastian Wood, British ambassador. [Photo / China Daily]

Morgan Motor Co, one of the oldest British hand-built car manufacturers, opened its first showroom in China on Tuesday, part of a drive to bring more British vehicles overseas.

The 320-square-meter showroom, which is also the Morgan flagship store, is located in Workers' Stadium in Beijing. A number of models, including the first Plus 8 ever sold in China, a Roadster and the only 75th Anniversary edition of the 4/4 in China, are on display.

"The Morgan cars in the Beijing showroom are the first models imported to China under a commercial license, which means that they can be bought by Chinese customers," said Jim James, managing director of Morgan Cars (Beijing).

Within walking distance of the showrooms of Bentley and Lotus, the Morgan showroom positions it alongside popular British automotive brands.

"We have been competing with Lotus, Rolls-Royce and other brand names that stepped into the market ahead of us. However, Chinese driving enthusiasts are becoming more sophisticated, and we can catch up with handmade, vintage-style authentic British cars," said James.

The performance of British cars in overseas markets has witnessed a steady increase in recent years. In the first quarter of 2012, the United Kingdom sold more cars abroad than it imported for the first time in 36 years, according to the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

With a growing number of well-heeled customers and the potential to be the world's largest luxury car market, China is becoming an increasingly significant market for UK vehicle makers.

Exports of UK-built cars and commercial vehicles totaled 1.275 million units in 2012, and 8.1 percent of such cars and commercial vehicles were exported to China, compared with 1.4 percent in 2008, according to Motor Industry Facts 2013 released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the trade association for the UK motor industry.

"From road cars to F1, the UK is home to more than 40 companies manufacturing vehicles. I'm delighted that Morgan's heritage and iconic designs are appreciated by an increasing number of Chinese customers," said Sebastian Wood, the British ambassador to China.

Morgan officially launched sales in China in June 2012. Since then, China has become part of the 104-year-old automaker's five-year plan, targeting 500 to 700 car sales globally every year.

"We sold 12 cars in China in the first year, and now we hope to build up to about 50 next year," James said.

Morgan makes all its cars to order, and it produced about 1,200 traditional cars and other vehicles in 2012. It regards its expansion in China as an investment in the long-term future.

In China, Morgan needs to capture drivers like Wu Duming, a 43-year-old founder of a menswear brand based in Hunan province. Wu became the first Chinese owner of the Morgan Plus 8, which is priced at 2.8 million yuan ($457,000).

"I ran into a Morgan car when I went to Britain in 2004 and was attracted by the look of the car first. I like the brand's reputation and the vintage design," Wu said.

"Besides finding consumers who appreciate the look and the feel of our cars, we have to make all the cars comply with local regulations, such as customs and related business certification," James said.

The showroom was been commissioned by Malvern Morgan Cars (Beijing) Co Ltd, an authorized agent of the UK Morgan Motor Co.

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