Italian luxury automaker Maserati is adding extra horsepower to its customization experience in China by offering vehicles with features tailored specifically to the tastes of the country’s high-end car buyers, said the Modena-based company earlier this week.
Maserati said it will provide 88 of its Levante Trofeo sport-utility vehicles according to the most-sought-after preferences of the more than 600 million consumers on Tmall, China’s largest B2C online marketplace, thanks to a partnership with Alibaba’s market-research division, the Tmall Innovation Center. The fleet of these 88 limited-edition, China-only SUVs will be available on Tmall when they arrive from Italy early next year.
“By working with TMIC, we were able to gain a better understanding of the preferences of our online customers. This allows us to provide a more customized product and services for our customers. This is a brand-new experiment for the auto industry,” said Maserati.
Customers in the Driver Seat
By analyzing customer preferences and their shopping behavior on Tmall, as well as conducting multiple rounds of surveys, TMIC was able to provide the century-old car company insights into their target audience in China. The plan was to launch these 88 vehicles based on that research with the aim of steering more Chinese customers to Maserati’s Tmall site.
Maserati, which has partnered with Tmall before, is the first automaker in China to offer these personalized options based on analytics.
TMIC’s findings show that luxury-car buyers in China are mostly between the ages of 25 and 34, are married with children, have an annual salary of around 600,000 RMB ($88,000) and prefer an SUV that is spacious enough to fit the entire family. Moreover, they look for a multifunctional car that is suitable for a daily commute in the city as well as off-road trips on the weekend.
TMIC also found that Chinese customers, unlike their Western counterparts, like yellow and red, two colors that are considered auspicious in China. The two colors, as well as 22-inch tires, will be available only on Tmall.
Maserati is re-innovating its delivery experience for Chinese consumers by creating options based on previously demonstrated preferences. Instead of asking customers to choose their own configurations and wait an average of six months before the car is ready for pickup, the new process gives customers the chance to purchase a vehicle on Tmall that already contains the specs they most likely want. For the customers, this could significantly cut down the waiting time.
Many other global brands have also worked with TMIC to up their games in China by creating products designed specifically for the world’s second-largest consumer market. TMIC’s use of its insights into Chinese consumer behavior is part of a new Alibaba strategy called “New Manufacturing,” or a customer-to-business (C2B) model that leverages consumer preferences and feedback to develop and design products, rather than the traditional top-down approach.
China: Engine for Luxury Auto
Sales of SUVs have accelerated in China in recent years in tandem with the country’s rapid growth of a middle class that is vying for a higher-quality lifestyle. According to research firm Mintel, SUVs were the fastest-growing passenger car segment in China last year with a 22% year-on-year growth, reaching 11 million units. Sales are projected to climb 65% to 28 million units in five years.
Moreover, Mintel reported that 58% of the current compact-car owners in China say they plan to switch to an SUV in the future. China, which accounts for one-third of the global sales of luxury, is one of the main engines fueling the growth of luxury-car sales worldwide, an Euromonitor report showed.
In March, Maserati reported that their sales in China in 2017 had reached a record high of 14,498 units, marking a year-on-year growth of 18%. The China market comprised roughly 30% of Maserati’s total global sales that year, according to the company.