Hong Kong's Supercars

by AFP/Adrian Addison, Jan 7, 2010 | Destinations: Hong Kong / China

HONG KONG, X'mas, 2009 - Hong Kong's roads read like pages ripped from a luxury car magazine.

Hundreds of ultra-flash motors from Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Porsches to Aston Martins, Rolls-Royces and Bentleys, inch through traffic on the city's clogged and smoggy roads.

Even taxes of 120 percent don't deter Hong Kong's uber-rich from splashing out on the latest super-expensive 'boy's toy' -- with dealers seeking to import as many supercars as they can get their hands on.

In the lead-up to Christmas, Marchy Lee's CarPro showroom contained a Lamborghini Murcielago LP650-4. There were only 50 ever made and this was the last one on sale in Asia. Price on the road? A bank account-buckling 800,000 dollars.

Or, there's always the cheaper option, a stunning black and gold Ferrari 430 Scuderia -- a snip, at 520,000 dollars.

"You buy this car, you want to be driving on the road and for some people to take a good look," Marchy said from the Murcielago's driver's seat. "There are a lot of supercars in Hong Kong, even though it's a very small place.

"A few successful Hong Kong businessmen own 30 or 40 supercars. They are big boys and they need to buy toys. So these are their toys."

But it's not just the boys.

Nicole Wang, a banker, zips out of a parking spot in Hong Kong city centre in her Audi R8 -- worth around 300,000 dollars -- straight into a traffic jam.

"I chose this car because it suits my character," she said. "It's not for middle-aged men. It's very special and very rare in Hong Kong -- there are only about 50 here right now."

Many young boys like to play with toy cars, perhaps having a Ferrari, a couple of Porsches and maybe an Aston Martin parked in their toy box.

But when Terence Ku grew up, his toy box became a real garage. He owns 16 cars worth around two million dollars.

He imported a beautiful pearl white Aston Martin DBS from Britain because of his love of James Bond movies and a Ferrari 360 CS because of the engine's deep and distinctive growl.

But Porsches are his favourite. He owns six.

"I love Porsches," Terence, said. "But I'd put the Ferrari 458 at the top of my Xmas list, I don't mind having to wait until next year."

Terence, who owns a printing and publishing company, admits Hong Kong is not the best place for the motorist.

"It's too expensive here and it's too small. There's no good roads to drive on. That's why we get together and go away on road trips."

Many Hong Kong car enthusiasts such as Terence join clubs and often ship their pride and joy to China or Malaysia -- sometimes even to Germany -- so they can enjoy them properly on the open road.

Benjamin Lam, chairman of the Porsche Club Hong Kong, recently led a convoy of Porsches on a trip across China.

"The traffic is not very good in Hong Kong," he said. "You've got traffic jams everywhere, even at 3:00 am. And the public transportation is very good, so you don't even really need a car.

"That's why we're always shipping our cars overseas. We like to drive on the open roads. We're all passionate about our cars."

Bentleys and Rolls-Royces seem to be the luxury cars of choice for the "older gentleman" in Hong Kong, as well as for hotel limousines. Hundreds of the graceful classics glide silently through the streets.

Rolls-Royce immediately sold 20 of its new Ghost when it made its debut in Hong Kong in September.

The new 'smaller and more dynamic' Ghosts cost around 550,000 dollars on the road and are built to order to the buyer's specification.

"Hong Kong has always been an important market for Rolls-Royce," said Jenny Zhang, general manager of Rolls-Royce Greater China.

"All our customers have one thing in common despite where they are from -- they are all highly successful individuals who are passionate about the Rolls-Royce brand."

Any rich man or woman who fancies a new supercar this Christmas needs to immediately double the price tag if they want to take it out into a traffic jam.

Marchy Lee explains: "The tax in Hong Kong is very, very high. All cars over 500,000 Hong Kong dollars (64,500 US dollars) are classed as luxury brands and are taxed at 120 percent, after the first third.

"So, to buy one of these ultra-niche cars, you have to really want one -- and have a lot of money."

But that hasn't stopped shoppers at Marchy's small dealership -- he's sold around 40 supercars since the company started almost two years ago.

And the Ferrari 430 Scuderia has already sold -- somebody's having a very Happy Christmas.

* * * * *