Global Update

Camaro Considered Luxury Sports Car in China; Competitor to Audi A5, BMW 5 Series


GM is marketing the Camaro in China as a luxury sports car—a segment priced from $61,614 to $123,228 (USD).

As incomes rise in China, so does interest in owning cars that show off financial status. In China, a “musclecar” can do that. There currently isn’t much of a musclecar segment in China. But foreign automakers are betting that they can create one with thorough marketing. And the buyers will be considerably wealthier than your average musclecar customer in the United States.

Since the segment is in its very early stages, numbers on the size of the musclecar market are hard to come by. Cars such as the Camaro are marketed to wealthy consumers who are looking for something different.

“For musclecars, in general, they should have a growing market,” said a manager at Chrysler. “When people have money, they aren’t satisfied having the same kind of car as other people. Any differentiated market would have good growth, in my opinion.”

GM is betting on that. It introduced the Chevy Camaro in April at Auto China in Shanghai. On display was a yellow “Bumblebee” Camaro like the one in the movie Transformers: Dark of the Moon, complete with a huge Transformers figure.

A GM China spokesman told SEMA: “The Bumblebee Camaro has a very good reputation and huge popularity among Chinese young people. We are very optimistic about its sales prospects in China.” He wouldn’t give specific figures.

Priced in China at 455,800 RMB or $ 70,215 (USD) at current exchange rates, GM is marketing the Camaro in China as a luxury sports car—a segment priced from $61,614 to $123,228 (USD). GM says sales in that segment grew by 141% in 2010. Best sellers in that segment are European models, such as Audi A5 or BMW 5 Series. Camaros sold in China will be imported with a 3.6L engine.

Why is the Camaro so pricey in China? Taxes, including import and engine displacement. A car with a 3.6L engine pays a tax of up to $555 (USD).

Accessories are part of the appeal of selling musclecars in China, a GM executive told SEMA. “There is a large and untapped market in China for branded, big, bold American themes that can be tied to movies and products Chinese see as American ‘cool,’” he said.

As for the Mustang, the classic American pony car, Ford is mum on plans to sell it in China. However, Ford plans to introduce 15 new models to China by 2015. It is a good bet the Mustang will be introduced as an import.

Chrysler produced the 300C in China from 2006 until 2008, but fewer than 10,000 were sold. All 300 models made in China were called 300C, though most did not come equipped with the Hemi engine. The models produced in China had three engine options: A 2.7L V6, a 3.5L engine and a 5.7L fuel-efficient and “durable version” of the Hemi V8.

There is some talk of producing the 300 in China again, but no decision has been made, Chrysler sources told SEMA. It is not sold in China as an import.

Automakers like the idea of introducing musclecars to China because they have a “halo” effect—making a brand cool, said Kyle Dickie, China managing partner for dealer development company Sewells Group.

Foreign-brand dealers are open to that idea, he said, but are concerned about the amount of fixed and variable marketing support for a low-volume model. Still, even if sales of the musclecar models are only a tiny percentage of the market, that will mean significant numbers. China’s passenger-vehicle market—including SUVs—grew by 37% in 2010 to 17.2 million units, according to J.D. Power and Associates.

While growth is slowing—sales rose by “only” 13% in the first four months of this year, China’s passenger-vehicle market is still forecast to grow rapidly.

“Massive road construction, a fast rate of urbanization and an increasing family income are all a foundation for rapid vehicle demand growth in the next decade,” according to J.D. Power and Associates in its monthly report.

For more information on the sales opportunities in the Chinese market, contact Linda Spencer at