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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 December 2006, 10:14 GMT
Chinese covet Rolls-Royce Phantom
New Roll-Royce Phantoms for Hong Kong's Peninsula Hotel
A record number of Phantoms were delivered to The Peninsula
Rampant demand for luxury cars among China's new rich is rapidly making the country the biggest growth market for iconic carmaker Rolls-Royce.

Sales are up 50% this year, the firm says, with one Beijing tycoon taking delivery of a $2.2m (1.1m) stretch limousine.

Hong Kong's Peninsula Hotel has bought 14 Rolls-Royce Phantoms, hand-made at Rolls' plant in Sussex.

Features include a cool box for chilled hand towels.

The hotel's cars also have DVD players and specially expanded luggage compartments.

The tycoon's super-limo, meanwhile, includes state-of-the art gadgets such as an LCD entertainment system, and has two rows of rear seats facing each other.

"It was the most expensive car we've ever done," said Rolls-Royce chairman Ian Robertson, who did not name the property dealer who bought the car.

China's new urban rich are increasingly seeking western status symbols, such as fast or luxurious cars.

Major markets

The delivery to the Peninsula hotel continues a long tradition. The hotel has used Rolls-Royce cars since 1970 and its fleet includes a restored 1934 Rolls-Royce Phantom II.

"We are keen for this [relationship] to continue for many years to come," said Mr Robertson.

Rolls-Royce chief Ian Robertson hands over a Phantom to Sir Michael Kadoorie
Mr Robertson firmly believes in the Chinese market's strength

China has overtaken Japan as Rolls-Royce's biggest Asian market, and the company will add three dealerships in China next year, taking its total there to seven.

Rolls-Royce is now owned by German car manufacturer BMW, which produces the Phantoms from a new factory in Goodwood in the south of England.

Rolls-Royce launched the current version of the Phantom in 2003, its first model since it was acquired by BMW in 1998.

China is now the third-largest market after the US and UK, and Rolls-Royce plans to add 200 employees to meet demand from China for the Phantom. Most of the US sales are made in Los Angeles.

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