China may still be largely a country of poor people, but even a sliver of wealthy denizens in a nation of this size is a serious market of upper and upper-middle class consumer eager to catch up with the developed world’s high-class and tastes.
According to a report in the Beijing Times (which can be read here in Chinese) one of these up-and-coming nouveau riche attending the 2013 Auto Shanghai expo wasn’t interested in a plain old pedestrian six-figure Porsche Cayman or Bentley Continental.
Instead he reportedly headed over to the N1 pavilion of the sprawling auto show -- the one with all the cars people rarely see, much less own -- and plopped down 40 million yuan, or $6.5 million, on the 2013 Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse WRC, one of only eight that have been produced.
The report identified the “mysterious buyer” only as a 28-year-old with the surname Liu who may or may not be a member of the Liu family of entrepreneurs.
If true, the buyer could be Anthony Liu, identified in the auto press as a wealthy Chinese entrepreneur and driving enthusiast. He helped Bugatti, which is owned by German auto giant Volkswagen AG (ETR:VOW3), break a speed record earlier this month.
According to Autoblog, Liu pushed the Vitesse to a 254.04 miles per hour at Volkswagen’s proving grounds in Ehra-Lessian, Germany, earlier this month.
For its part, Bugatti isn’t commenting on the report. And if this mysterious buyer did in fact drop $6.5 million on the car at the show, he paid more than Bugatti’s own “MSRP," or manufacturer's suggested retail price, of $2.6 million.
The report may be scant on details but it does underscore the growing number of young, rich Chinese consumers that have helped push luxury car sales in China. According to the country’s auto industry estimates, luxury auto sales are growing at a rate of 36 percent a year.
"These are people who are young and entrepreneurial and they have the affluence, so they want a car that shows it," Ralf Speth, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover, told CNBC on Friday. Though, like rich people everywhere, most wealthy Chinese consumers are happy with a good old-fashioned brand new Audi A5 or BMW 6-Series.