The video: Nominally communist China overtook the U.S. to become the biggest market for Rolls-Royces last year, and the British luxury automaker (now owned by BMW) is eagerly committed to seducing China's fast-growing millionaire class. Its latest bid to lure them? A $1.2 million Dragon Phantom created just for Chinese buyers to celebrate the Year of the Dragon. Beyond an array of luxury amenities, the limited edition car is laden with dragon imagery: Hand-embroidered dragons on the headrests, hand-painted dragons on each side panel, among others. (Watch a video report below.) The Dragon Phantom sold out within two months — despite its gulp-worthy starting price and high luxury taxes — helping to push Rolls-Royce to the best year in its 107-year history.
The reaction: "Do these limited edition gimmicks work on the Chinese market?" says Jason Chow in The Wall Street Journal. You bet. Before Rolls-Royce's Dragon, BMW had no trouble selling out its 2010 China-only "M3 Tiger" sports car (which honored the Year of the Tiger), and all 10 of last year's gold Porsche 911s sold out instantly. Luxury automakers aren't dumb: They know "wealthy Chinese consumers are especially fond of limited edition runs of high-end goods." At least "the Age of Bling on Wheels" is alive and well somewhere, says Paul Wallis at Digital Journal. But for all its snapping up of luxury cars, "China has banned the word 'luxury'" when referring to Rolls and other top brands, since it's apparently "inharmonious with the people." Watch a report on the Dragon Phantom: