Bentley Motors announced a few days ago the development of its latest project. A 60-stories building co-developed with American developer Dezer to offer a Bentley branded residence experience featuring lots of amenities. Among these, probably the most striking is the so-called ‘Dezervator’, an elevator that will allow owners to bring up with them up to 4 vehicles and park them alongside their apartment.
This solution was already featured, a while back, in the Porsche Design Tower, developed once again by Dezer with the German automaker.
Bentley in fact is just the last one of a fast-growing list of luxury automakers and luxury brands approaching this market. Before the British marque, similar developments have been started, or are already in the pipeline for Aston Martin, Bugatti, Mercedes, Pininfarina, Porsche, and Tonino Lamborghini (at least in a way related to the automaker).
Branded Residences have been a growing trend in the luxury industry for a while now. It is gradually expanding to lower segments of the market too. But while the vast majority of these projects is still handled by Hoteliers (Marriott being the largest), automakers now constitute a consistent share of this niche.
But how does it work and why would a low-volume automaker develop and sell or rent a super-luxury residence?
The competition in the top-end of the luxury market is becoming fiercer. Along with automotive manufacturers, also fashion brands are approaching it. So, for anyone interested you could also decide to buy, or book a long-stay in an Armani Residence in Dubai, or a Missoni one in Miami.
Clients in the niche are becoming more and more demanding. A high level of customer service is expected, so brands have to constantly come up with new, innovative, and unique solutions to lure the attention of their selected clientele.
Required services might vary from more basic ones like mail and package delivery, restaurant, spa and salon reservations, golf courts, 24/7 security, various loyalty scheme, and Concierge services, to on-demand like housekeeping, laundry services, in-home dining service, personal shopping, personal trainer, spa treatments, childcare services, pet services, meeting room services/office equipment, use of the guest suite. From there, pretty much anything is possible and it represents an added value for the clients. Yacht Marinas, Art Galleries, Shops, Meditation rooms, Movie theatres. Prices vary from $1 million up to around $50.
According to Savills three are the main locations in terms of Branded Residences available schemes. Miami, Dubai, and New York. Asian Cities are instead the fastest growing. On top Hangzhou, Guangzhou in China, and Seoul in South Korea with a projected growth of 189%, 180%, and 78% over the next 5 years respectively.
Additionally, while right now the Automotive marques share of this market is around 5%, this is set to grow up to 24% by 2025, second, as a non-hotel brand, to fashion ones at 28%.
On the one hand, this is an interesting diversification solution in a market that is steadily growing and is relatively new. On the other hand, some risks must be taken into account.
The branding of these buildings is usually licensed by the marques to the developers, and later the owners will also pay some fees on it. Other earnings can come from design work and technical consultancy. So, while this represents an additional stream of revenues, there might be risks connected with brand image. The reduced control over the property management might affect negatively the company’s name if the services or facilities are not considered up to standard.
If money is invested too in a different type of contract the risk might increase. This is in fact a very competitive niche and with a small customer base. Luckily, at this end of the market, with the asked price in the tens of millions, the possibilities are almost endless. So, luxury automakers and their partners have to rely on features and services that other brands outside the automotive niche cannot, or would not think about.
First of all, the design can be daring and become a stand-out characteristic when it is related to a supercar manufacturer more than a regular hotelier. As for special features, the car elevator paired with the sky garage is one. But probably the most emblematic is Aston Martin’s $50 million penthouse that includes in the deal a 1 of 24 track-only Vulcan plus track driving lessons and a membership to a private track club. This kind of deal along with the experience itself offers proper access to the brand’s life and promises a continued experience in time.
Some projects have a different drive. It is the case of Pininfarina. As discussed in the review of the automotive coachbuilding sector, throughout the years as the bespoke automotive production faltered, brands like Pininfarina have expanded becoming full-fledged design houses. In this case, the architectural design, as well as the sustainability principles applied are fully coherent with the brand’s portfolio and new image.
All in all, this market offers clients the opportunity of buying a property that includes every amenity and service imaginable, but at the same time also becomes part of a brand and its lifestyle. And this was probably the main driver for the entry of automotive and fashion (and other non-hotel) firms in this space.
This niche is new, so there might be doubts about its long-term resilience when it comes to properties that command such huge premiums, especially after this difficult year. Nonetheless, branded residences can become an important marketing tool for luxury automakers. They can help to further increase the marque’s exclusivity factor, promote their values, such as sustainability in the case of Bentley through design, materials, and innovation, and create a closer relationship with the clients inspiring brand loyalty.
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