In a clear sign of China's newfound position in the world, Italian automaker Lamborghini chose the Beijing auto show to unveil the newest addition in its line of supercars. Called the Urus, presumably after the extinct wild ox that once roamed throughout Europe and northern Africa, the concept model is the company's first sport-utility vehicle in almost twenty years.
While few precise specs have been revealed, two things seem clear. First, with a 600-horsepower engine under the hood and extensive use of carbon fiber, this is not your typical auntie's SUV. And second, despite its massive power output, Lamborghini claims the vehicle will deliver the lowest CO2 emissions among its competitors -- namely, the BMW X5 and X6, the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, and the Range Rover Sport Supercharged.
China's appetite for automobiles
To say that the Chinese car market is important nowadays would be an egregious understatement. In 2009, China passed the U.S. in car sales to become the largest market for automobiles in the world. In 2010, General Motors (NYSE: GM ) sold more cars in China than it did here at home for the first time. Porsche counts China as the largest market for its SUV and four-door sports car. And the country recently became the biggest market for Bentley, another Volkswagen luxury brand, after sales surpassed deliveries in the U.S. for the first time earlier this year.
It should be noted, moreover, that the country still has a long way to go before catching up to its Western counterparts, as it has only 37 cars per 1,000 people versus America's 808.
With this in mind, it's no surprise that companies like Ford (NYSE: F ) , Toyota, and Honda are aggressively seeking increased access to the Middle Kingdom. Last year, for example, Ford sold 519,390 units in China. Just recently, the American automaker opened a $490 million plant in China's Chongqing, making it the biggest production location for the company outside of Michigan. And earlier this month, the company said it would invest an additional $760 million in China as part of a strategy to double its production volume in the region by 2015.
Foolish bottom line
At the end of the day, it's hard not to have mixed feelings about a storied company like Lamborghini selling out to the SUV craze. Regardless of your feelings, however, the location of the Urus' unveiling demonstrates unequivocally that the Chinese consumer is alive and well. For a handful of American companies positioned to exploit this reality, check out our recently release free report: "3 American Companies Set to Dominate the World."