Though highly educated with big incomes, Chinese luxury car owners are surprisingly young, according to a survey released by a the Hurun Research Institute, which tracks wealth in China wealth research institution.
The average age of luxury car owners is just 33.5 years, the survey found. Seventy-six per cent are male and about one in 10 spent at least three years overseas, Hurun said in its 2014 report on luxury car brands released on Wednesday in Beijing.
The 37-page report compares the images of eight luxury car brands in China: Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, Volvo, Land Rover, Cadillac and Infiniti.
Together owners had an annual average family income of 1.05 million yuan (S$223,500). Mercedes-Benz owners had the highest income and Infiniti owners the lowest, said the report.
BMW had the highest percentage of female owners, while Cadillac had the highest percentage of males.
Volvo owners had the highest education level. Audi had the most government officials as owners and Land Rover had the most entrepreneurs. Lexus had the least distinct ownership group.
Hurun Research carried out the survey across 10 cities in China and surveyed 100 car owners from each of the eight brands between February and October this year.
In Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Xiamen, Kunming and Chengdu, Hurun Research surveyed a minimum of 10 car owners for each main product. The car owners surveyed each had 1.4 cars on average.
"Spending money on a nice car is the first outward sign of success for many Chinese," said Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief researcher for the Hurun Report. "The objective of this report is to highlight the brand image of these luxury cars in China."
The report came as no surprise as the country now has 2.9 million US dollar millionaires and 1.09 million individuals with a personal wealth of 10 million yuan ($17 million).
Beijing, Guangdong and Shanghai have the highest number of millionaires, according to Hurun's wealth report for 2014.
The average monthly income of luxury car owners was 30,000 yuan with their household income reaching 88,000 yuan monthly. About three out of 10 households surveyed had a monthly income of 100,000 yuan or more. The average personal wealth of the households was 8.8 million yuan, and 10 per cent of them are worth more than 10 million yuan.
The personal interests of luxury car owners ranged from travel to good food to family activities and sports. Female car owners preferred spas, beauty care and art and had an interest in the environment, said the report.
When surveying social status, car owners were asked to choose from 118 descriptions and characteristics that came from four in-depth focus group panel interviews with car owners in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Guangzhou.
Image of owners
The focus group image of Mercedes-Benz and Volvo owners was very similar to the way the car owners viewed themselves, while the image of BMW, and to a lesser extent Land Rover, were quite different to how the brands' owners viewed themselves.
Mercedes-Benz owners are perceived as entrepreneurial, cultivated and successful. This was very much in line with how car owners saw themselves.
BMW owners considered themselves to be small and medium-sized business owners or senior management at multinationals with a positive attitude to life, living life to the full and being relatively discreet, a disconnect with the their image among the focus group surveys as nouveau riche, materialistic show-offs.
Land Rover owners were considered to be nouveau riche, young second generation and show-offs, yet the owners themselves have the image they are professionals, senior management in multinationals and self-made.
Volvo owners were considered to be valuable members of society, low-key, behaving in a morally upstanding manner, family-oriented. Of the eight car brands surveyed, Volvo car owners came closest to their image. They also considered themselves to be returning overseas Chinese.
Audi owners were viewed as government officials, mature and with experience.
This image was the most defined image of all the eight brands. Audi owners also considered themselves to be white-collar workers with a positive attitude to life and to live life to the full.
Cadillac owners had the image of being white-collar workers, mature and successful, while owners considered themselves to be senior management at multinationals.
Infiniti owners had the image of being from the second generation, film stars, highly active, yet Infiniti owners considered themselves to be white-collar workers.
The image of Lexus owners did not fall into a distinct class. Lexus owners considered themselves to be white-collar workers, professionals and senior management from State-owned enterprises.
Respectability, stylishness and brand awareness were considered the three most important characteristics for a luxury car brand, followed by technology and brand culture. For luxury car owners, Lamborghini, Ferrari and BMW most represented these qualities.
Safety was most important for 80 per cent of luxury car owners, followed by comfort and brand.
Men considered price, petrol consumption and power most important, while women considered the outward appearance and feeling of luxury most important.
For purchase motives, there appears to be a great deal of impulse buying－44 per cent purchased after seeing a car at an exhibition and 36 per cent after seeing a new car advertisement or after a test drive.