China's largest automotive event kicks off this week as news breaks that the nation is now the world's leading market for luxury cars.

Auto China 2010 - or the 2010 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition ( - will run from April 25 to May 2 at the China International Exhibition Centre and the world's leading carmakers are expected en masse.

 And while the event's organizers have been quick to point to China's own auto industry - one of the nation's biggest carmakers, SAIC, for example will be debuting its all-electric concept car, the E1 at the show - there is little doubt that for most people attending, the bling will be the thing.

A report released at the weekend from global consulting firm JD Power claims that while the rest of the world has scaled down its spending on luxury vehicles, China's cashed-up car lovers can't get enough of them.

Lamborghini sold 66 cars in mainland China last year, according to the report, compared with 53 the year before, while at the same time in Europe the numbers sold were dropping from 697 in 2008 to 565 in 2009.

Rolls-Royce, meanwhile, shipped in 106 cars to China in 2009 - accounting for 50 percent of its sales for the whole of the Asia-Pacific region.

Carmakers are attending to the whims of the Chinese consumers too. Rolls-Royce has shortened its Phantom Coupe by 10 cm for the market as Chinese car owners apparently prefer shorter cars while Bentley (422 cars sold last year) is hoping that by offering the Continental in different colors (blue, khaki and brown), it can move 4,000 of them a year by 2014.

In other countries, though, you'll only be able to get your Continental in one color, Beijing Bentley's sales manager told the China Daily.

 At the start of the month, the China Passenger Car Association announced that it expected its car market to expand by 25 percent overall in 2010 - that's 17 million new vehicles on the road.

 And even the woe-begotten people at Toyota have been given something to cheer about with news that their sales in China so far this year have grown 33 percent, year on year.


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