Thanks to an interested and better-financed populace, luxury purchases have been on the rise in China for the past decade. Chinese consumers currently drop around $7.6 billion per year on premium goods, accounting forÂ almost a third of the global luxury market. This has resulted in a massive influx of high-end items and brands that want to capture the public’s attention and, more importantly, cash.
This includes automotive brandsÂ â€” all of which are desperate to expand into the Chinese market. But finding the correct approach is tricky. Plenty of fashionable brands attempted to incorporateÂ authentic Chinese elements into their designs, but failed to do so in an elegant or convincing way. There’s a bit of a balancing act required. Market research shows younger consumers like clean designs and a little bit of bling, but don’t want these established brands catering too much to Chinese tastes. Older consumers, however, are willing to enjoy a little bit more ostentatiousness and adherence to tradition.
That’s one reason why you see so many new cars showing up at auto shows painted red. In China, red represents good fortune and crops up on significant items on important dates all the time. Wedding dresses are traditionally red, as areÂ envelopes containing monetary gifts to commemorate the birth of a child or the new year.
However, we have to wonder if some brands aren’t going a little overboard. Mercedes-Maybach, which just released a hideous concept SUV intended to whet Chinese appetites, has followed up that eyebrow-raising effort with “the pinnacle of luxury living.”
The space, revealed forÂ Auto China 2018 in Beijing, combines all the elements foreign companies assume China likes. Mercedes claims the lounge follows theÂ Sensual PurityÂ design philosophy, providing “forward-looking enhancement and refinement” with an emphasis on beauty and high-tech charm.
“Our brand experience of the ultimate luxury is evident in the exclusive lounge furniture collection in the form of fine materials in the colours rosÃ© gold, white and silk beige”, said Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer of Daimler AG. “Their sensuousness and pure refinement create a timeless aesthetic for Mercedes-Maybach, our brand for the ultimate in luxury.”
It’s worth noting that the demo living area mimics the styling of theÂ Ultimate Luxury SUV concept exactly. We’d hazard a guess that every aspect of that design was carefully considered, too. Take, for example, the color palate. There are hundreds of years’ worth of Chinese paintings that contrast intricate organic designs with bright splashes of warm color on white backdrops. It works marvelously too, at least on the paintings. But there’s something about seeing it translated into modern furniture that seemsÂ tremendously gaudy.
Maybach is trying so hard to be glamorous, sophisticated, modern, and traditional at the same time here.Â But it only functions on one levelÂ â€” it’s not a space someone could realistically utilize, therefore the owner must be rich. I knew a family that had an all-white living room, and it was just a show piece. They would sometimes use it to briefly entertain important guests but it was really just there to show that their finances were strong enough to allow for a room to go unused most of the time.
That’s fine â€” nobody said luxury had to be all about personal comfort and functionality, and we don’t have to like what Mercedes is doing so long as China does. But this particular design also seems to dabble in some of the trappings Chinese consumers seem worried about.
More worrying is the possibility that global courtship of China will continue to influence designs and ideas that migrate here. While Maybach seems to have gone overboard with the Chinese aesthetic, and the language used to describe it, other high-end brands could follow suit if the market somehow finds it appealing.
As a strange aside to Mercedes’ pinnacle of luxury living room, the brand also promised aÂ Maybach Future Mobility Concept for 2030. According to the company, the vehicle is anÂ autonomous flying tandem two-seater can take off and land vertically. The automaker claims a huge Maybach logo will appear on the front and will define the entire fuselage area.
There will also be contrasting carbon-fiber wings “seamlessly positioned on the flying object in classic Maybach red.” It is apparently “ideal for longer journeys at the weekend.”
[Images: Daimler AG]