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Rachel Lu

Chinese Couple Asks: Can We Buy a BMW With Monthly Income of $2,100?

I cost more than twice your annual income, you know you want me

Can we afford a car that costs almost 26 times of our monthly income? That’s the query posed by a netizen on Tianya Community, one of the most popular discussion forums in China.

On October 7, @huggymoney asked for advice with the thread “Young couple with a combined monthly income of RMB13,000 (US$2,100) wants to get a new BMW 3 Series” {{1}}[[1]]小夫妻月入共一万三~想买宝马新三系[[1]], and the ensuing discussion provides an interesting perspective on the perennially perplexing question of how international luxury brands penetrate the new middle class in China and attract young people who have relatively low income on paper.

According to PC Auto, a Chinese automobile website, the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of the imported BMW 320i, the least expensive model, is RMB339,000 (US$53,800). The MSRP of BMW-Brilliance 320i, a model produced by BMW’s joint venture in China, is slightly more expensive at RMB345,000. By way of comparison, the MSRP of the same model is US$36,500 in the U.S. The average annual income of a BMW 3 Series owner in the U.S. is US$140,000, according to this website, or more than 5.5 times the household income of @huggymoney.

Via JingDaily

The immediate reaction of @huggymoney‘s fellow netizens seems to be incredulity. @秦隆隆 tells @huggymoney to “get a tire for a BMW.” @骑牛追奥迪 mocks, “Only a BMW320 with RMB13,000 a month? Why not just get a Bugatti Veyron, costs only RMB2.5 million.”

@huggymoney soon makes clear, however, that the new car’s price tag does not rank very high on her list of considerations. She writes that she is ready to spend up to RMB400,000 (US$63,000) on the car, in cash, with the help of her family. When questioned by other netizens, she brushes off the suggestion she is a “rich second generation” (富二代), a label given to children of the wealthy in China, admitting only that she and her husband have been given an apartment by her parents and in-laws and have few financial obligations at this time. She recognizes that they will have to shoulder the cost of fuel and maintenance of their new car, with fuel efficiency as the deciding factor between a BMW 320i and an Audi A4. 

While many netizens tell @huggymoney to think about her future obligations, like having children, in a city as expensive as Shanghai, @huggymoney seems bent on getting a car for its looks and brand name, writing “I don’t want to be mistaken for a ‘rich second generation,’ but I really do like the looks of BMW and Audi. I’ve searched for cars costing less than RMB200K, but haven’t found one that looks good and is a good bang for my buck. A few that I liked cost more than RMB300K anyway, then why wouldn’t I get a BMW for a bit more?” {{2}}[[2]]我也怕被人误以为富二代。。。可是真心喜欢宝马奥迪的样子啊!!!我也找过20w以内的车 可是目前还没找到样子好看 又性价比很高的 有些比较满意的也要30来万 那我干嘛不再加几万买宝马啊! [[2]] She dismissed a Chevrolet for having an ugly hood ornament. 

She does not even seem to care for BMW’s durability. “Probably will drive it for 3 or 4 years,” she writes. She won’t consider another netizen’s suggestion for more economical Japanese cars because “I’m afraid it might get smashed [by anti-Japanese protesters]!”

Some warn @huggymoney that it would cost more than RMB4,000, or a third of her monthly income, for insurance, general maintenance and government fees, not counting the cost of fuel, parking and BMW’s notoriously expensive replacement parts. “Is that worth it for a low-end luxury car just because you want ‘face’? It depreciates like crazy,” commented @68717363. {{5}}[[5]]为了一低端面子车值得不。还贬值的特快。[[5]]

No more streetside noodles for BMW owners

@自来也在此 tells the original poster that once she drives a BMW, she will need to live up to the lifestyle of the “upper class” to avoid gossip from people around her:

“Have a 130+ sq.m. apartment, wear a RMB20K watch, get a few Louis Vuitton and Pradas a year if you are a lady, travel at least twice a year, dine at a fancy restaurant at least twice a month, etc. What, you want to have noodles and barbecue on the street while driving a BMW? … Now you need to give a bigger gift at people’s weddings and always pick  up the bill at dinners. Are these things annoying? You are probably thinking how I live my life has nothing to do with everyone else, but it’s hard to go against the tide. If you do, people will talk behind your back, ‘They got a BMW with only RMB13,000 in income’ or ‘Probably just a driver.’ You think this is funny? That’s what I looked into when I thought about getting a Land Rover. The owners would often get together to compare watches, go to some media event sponsored by Land Rover, watch sailing competitions or some other events that burn money. I thought I could afford a Land Rover but not the hidden costs to prove that ‘I could actually afford a Land Rover.’ Do you want to drive a BMW and still hang out with losers?” {{7}}[[7]]住着130平朝上的房子,戴块至少2万+的手表,女士至少一年添几个LV,prada之类的,每年出去旅游至少两次,一个月至少去两次高级酒店吃个晚餐,等等?什么,你还想开个宝马经常吃兰州拉面和烤串?你还想旅游就拿个卡片机连单反都没有?长假连出国旅游都不去?手表还戴卡西欧甚至没手表?手机竟然不是三星和苹果?办个事情还去找免费停车位连10块钱的停车位都不舍得花?加油每次只加200不加满?为什么同是随礼我就得比别人多两百?为什么我就要次次请客?这些小事件看着是不是特讨厌?你肯定心想我爱怎么过是我的事,管你们鸟事,对吧?但是世俗的眼光是很难抗衡的,背后就会有很多人在议论了,比如“13000还想养宝马”或者“肯定是司机”之类的话了。你一定觉得很好玩是吧,这是我准备买路虎前做的功课,当时人家的风气就是时不时来个手表聚会,时不时参加个路虎赞助的媒体见面会,什么去不去看帆船赛啊之类的烧钱玩意。我觉得我自己买得起车但是负担不起相应的为证明“老子确实开得起路虎”的形象而花费的隐形费用。[[7]]

@幸福的土土 gave a simple criteria, “If your car is better than your boss’s car, do you still want your job? Nothing good will come your way [after your boss finds out].” {{8}}[[8]]比领导的车还好,你不想活了?以后啥好事都掉不到你头上.[[8]]

However, many agree with @huggymoney‘s consumption urge. @哈偶 posts, “I think if you can buy it if you feel it’s OK. What’s the point of driving a car costing RMB100K if you make RMB20K a month? Even if you save up enough money to buy a Rolls-Royce thirty years from now, can you get the same feeling driving it as when you were young?” {{3}}[[3]]但是我觉得,只要自己觉得Ok就买,月入2W开个10W的车没意思啊!30年后就算攒钱买了劳莱,还能开出年轻的味道吗?[[3]]

This color is even better

@橡皮猫Ada, a young female owner of a BMW 320i, also supports the original poster. “I like my BMW, I got it because it gave me a feeling of being a careless youth. It’s that simple. Don’t think too much. Your economic situation is not bad. Before you have kids, you have financial liberty since you have no mortgage . If you don’t drive this kind of car when you are young, do you wait until a mid-life crisis in your 40′s?  Don’t just get one, get one with very flashy color too! I support you.” {{4}}[[4]]我很喜欢我的小马,对于我来说我爱上它当初给我的那种愣头青的感觉所以我买它,就这么简单。楼主你也不用想的太复杂。你的经济状况不差,没孩子之前,没有房贷这件事就把你大大地解放了!年轻不开这种类型的车,等四十多岁装嫩去?不仅买,还买辆颜色绚的!支持![[4]]

That’s what BMW and its investors like to hear. In the first nine months of 2012, BMW’s sales in China surged by 34% compared to the same period in 2011, according to BusinessWeek.

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Rachel Lu

Rachel Lu is a co-founder of Tea Leaf Nation. Rachel traces her ancestry to Southern China. She spent much of her childhood memorizing Chinese poetry. After long stints in New York, New Haven and Cambridge, she has returned to China to bear witness to its great transformation. She is currently based in China.
  • http://www.facebook.com/alan.engel.tsukuba Alan Engel

    The old Cadillacs in Brooklyn phenomenon. People who cannot afford homes sometimes settle for expensive cars.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alan.engel.tsukuba Alan Engel

    The old Cadillacs in Brooklyn phenomenon. People who cannot afford homes sometimes settle for expensive cars.

  • Jahar

    Idiots

  • Jahar

    Idiots