Are expats really buying more luxury cars?

Expats around the world are still feeling the pinch from the global financial crisis – which means luxury cars are probably the last things on their wish lists. Or are they?

Recent research suggests that high-end car sales could see a rise in the coming year, with wealthy expats being a large percentage of the owners. Countries in Asia and Africa have seen a dramatic increase in car sales in 2011, prompting luxury car brands to step up their presence overseas.

In the United Arab Emirates, industry watchdogs are reporting a rise in the sales of cars such as Rolls Royce and Porsche due to the recent unrest in other Arab countries (wealthy businesspeople and expats have been using it as a safe-haven from the violence). While many believe that this rise could slow down by next year (after things calm down) the figures are still looking healthy.

If women are given the right to drive cars in Saudi Arabia (quite a possibility after they were recently allowed to vote in general elections), a whole new market could open up in the country. Surprisingly, women currently make up 20% of all car owners in the country (they’re driven around by chauffeurs or family members), but if equal rights finally do arrive, we can expect that figure to soar. The change in law would also increase the country’s appeal for wealthy expat women.

The luxury car market is growing in Asia as well. Just recently, UK company Aston Martin announced it will be expanding its operations in China from five dealerships to eight. The company has reported that sales have doubled in the past year with 250 cars sold. It claims China poses “the biggest long-term opportunity” for them. British expats living in China with a taste for the 007 lifestyle are certainly going to be among the buyers.

But what does this all this mean for expat marketers?

As with many business trends, getting in on it early can often reap hefty rewards. Keeping abreast of what’s going on in the expat industry is not only important for companies targeting expats, but also for savvy marketers targeting advertisers. So the key would be to pinpoint where expat demand for luxury cars will intensify next. Unfortunately we don’t have that golden ticket, but we’re happy to speculate…

Recent research suggests Singapore is the home to the world’s wealthiest expats. Could this be where the next luxury car boom will occur? It would certainly be a good bet. Or what about Hong Kong? The World Economic Forum just named it the top financial centre on the planet, so expats living there may well be able to afford a Bentley or two…

Where do you think wealthy expats will be spending their money next? Let us know in the comments section.

Stefan says:

What about Switzerland? Its home for many expats specially in Geneva and Zurich. The general high standard of living could push expats to go even fancier and invest some more CHF in their wheels.