The Latest Symbol of Asian Opulence: Handmade, Customized Cars

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SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 11: Models pose with the new Bufori Mk III La Joya at the 2007 Australian International Motor Show at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre on October 11, 2007 in Sydney, Australia.

Here’s a dilemma for a Chinese multi-millionaire: what do you do after you’ve bought your $1.5 million Tibetan Mastiff puppy, given your lady a Hermès Birkin or three and stocked your cellar with some 1990 Romanée-Conti wine? How about a handmade car, an utterly unnecessary but worthy splurge for the nouveau riche millionaires and billionaires rapidly popping up in the eastern hemisphere.

The next big status symbol in China and the Middle East, reports Reuters, is a vehicle made by Bufori. The brand’s cars, hand-made in Malaysia, take anywhere from 3,500 to 9,000 man hours to assemble. Customers can request interiors plastered in pearls or decorated with built-in vaults (because nothing says ‘classy’ like cathedral styling). What else is so great about them? They look sort of like 1930s coupes, are powered by V8 engines, and can even have a tea-maker fitted to the interior. Modesty is sold separately, evidently.

But really, such outlandish desires should come as no surprise. Private wealth in Asia increased 10.7% in the past decade, according to Boston Consulting Group, leading to a $23.7 trillion cash influx. What fun would it be just locking that money up in the bank? A recent Ruder Finn/Ipsos poll found that handbag and wristwatch sales are on the decline. And bespoke suits and custom-fit jewelry are for mere peasants, no? Consumers are perhaps looking for other luxury items on which to offload some of their burgeoning coffers.

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The cars cost from $150,000-$350,000, but that apparently hasn’t dampened demand from the newly-minted millionaires in Asia, who now outnumber high net worth individuals in North America. The waiting list is long, however, as Bufori can only churn out 60 cars per year. “These are exclusive, very elite. You’ve got to be very special to own one of these cars,” Australian founder Gerry Khouri told Reuters. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

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