As Asia's wealthy population continues to grow, bespoke cars have become the latest must-have for those looking to stand out from the crowd.
Over the last year, all of the major luxury car brands have seen increased demand for personalized vehicles in Asia amid an increase in the number of high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs). As their fortunes accumulate, the wealthy continue to look for new ways to express their individuality and advertise their wealth.
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Rolls-Royce (London Stock Exchange: RR.-GB) is one premium marque offering bespoke services. Over the past 12 months the company has seen a 69 percent increase in demand for such services.
''When it comes to the very wealthy, designing your own car comes naturally after shoes, kitchen and a yacht," said Hal Serudin, Asia Pacific corporate communications manager for Rolls-Royce.
Among consumers' favorite customizations are signatures emblazoned on glove boxes and gold versions of the Spirit of Ecstasy (the flying lady statue on the hood).
"One female customer asked for her car to be painted the same color as her nail varnish, highlighting how cars can be an extension of fashion for the ultra-wealthy,'' Serudin added.
Another popular choice is monogrammed head rests; a customer from India wanted each of his family members' initials stitched onto their own head rests along with their family crest, a sign that cars are also viewed as family heirlooms.
At Italian supercar-maker Ferrari the story is similar, with customers asking for colors outside of the mainstream range and commemorative plaques inside the car. ItalAuto, Ferrari's exclusive Singapore dealership, even added a plush lounge to its new showroom so buyers can choose their bespoke cars in comfort.
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''Owners like to express their individuality in their cars, and Ferrari is best placed amongst virtually all the ultra-high-end manufacturers to deliver this,'' said Nick Syn, marketing manager at ItalAuto.
British sports car manufacturer Aston Martin says bespoke cars are part of its long and rich heritage. Sill plaques with the owners' names or initials are becoming popular in Asia, according to Nina Lim, who heads up sales and marketing for Aston Martin in Singapore.
''Bespoke services will play a big part in a brand's marketing strategy to gain customers' attention and market share,'' she said.
Driving the trend ahead
Luxury carmakers expect the trend to continue as Asia's wealthy population grows.
Rolls-Royce has seen healthy demand for bespoke vehicles in China where commissions are up 103 percent on-year. This trend is likely to continue with the launch of the Majestic Horse Collection, a limited number of bespoke Rolls-Royce Ghosts that coincide with the Year of the Horse in 2014.
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Melvin Goh, managing director of EuroSports Auto, which is the distributor for Lamborghini in Singapore, also expects the trend to continue.
"One of the reasons HNWIs buy super sports cars is to differentiate themselves from the crowd. It's a reflection of their wealth and status. With growing affluence, more HNWIs indulge in these passions because bespoke services is the only way to stand out, and to put a personal stamp on their pride and joy," he said.
How far will they go?
Among the more bizarre customization requests, BMW (XETRA:BMW-DE) provided its bespoke service - Individual - to a fish-farm owner who wanted to incorporate fish skin into the dashboard trim. Rolls Royce customized a car for a Japanese buyer who wanted enough space to lie down inside; he was measured from head to toe to make sure he would fit.
- By Justin Harper.
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