By on April 24, 2018

Thanks to an interested and better-financed populace, luxury purchases have been on the rise in China for the past decade. Chinese consumers currently drop around $7.6 billion per year on premium goods, accounting for almost a third of the global luxury market. This has resulted in a massive influx of high-end items and brands that want to capture the public’s attention and, more importantly, cash.

This includes automotive brands — all of which are desperate to expand into the Chinese market. But finding the correct approach is tricky. Plenty of fashionable brands attempted to incorporate authentic Chinese elements into their designs, but failed to do so in an elegant or convincing way. There’s a bit of a balancing act required. Market research shows younger consumers like clean designs and a little bit of bling, but don’t want these established brands catering too much to Chinese tastes. Older consumers, however, are willing to enjoy a little bit more ostentatiousness and adherence to tradition.

That’s one reason why you see so many new cars showing up at auto shows painted red. In China, red represents good fortune and crops up on significant items on important dates all the time. Wedding dresses are traditionally red, as are envelopes containing monetary gifts to commemorate the birth of a child or the new year.

However, we have to wonder if some brands aren’t going a little overboard. Mercedes-Maybach, which just released a hideous concept SUV intended to whet Chinese appetites, has followed up that eyebrow-raising effort with “the pinnacle of luxury living.”

The space, revealed for Auto China 2018 in Beijing, combines all the elements foreign companies assume China likes. Mercedes claims the lounge follows the Sensual Purity design philosophy, providing “forward-looking enhancement and refinement” with an emphasis on beauty and high-tech charm.

“Our brand experience of the ultimate luxury is evident in the exclusive lounge furniture collection in the form of fine materials in the colours rosé gold, white and silk beige”, said Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer of Daimler AG. “Their sensuousness and pure refinement create a timeless aesthetic for Mercedes-Maybach, our brand for the ultimate in luxury.”

It’s worth noting that the demo living area mimics the styling of the Ultimate Luxury SUV concept exactly. We’d hazard a guess that every aspect of that design was carefully considered, too. Take, for example, the color palate. There are hundreds of years’ worth of Chinese paintings that contrast intricate organic designs with bright splashes of warm color on white backdrops. It works marvelously too, at least on the paintings. But there’s something about seeing it translated into modern furniture that seems tremendously gaudy.


Maybach is trying so hard to be glamorous, sophisticated, modern, and traditional at the same time here. But it only functions on one level — it’s not a space someone could realistically utilize, therefore the owner must be rich. I knew a family that had an all-white living room, and it was just a show piece. They would sometimes use it to briefly entertain important guests but it was really just there to show that their finances were strong enough to allow for a room to go unused most of the time.

That’s fine — nobody said luxury had to be all about personal comfort and functionality, and we don’t have to like what Mercedes is doing so long as China does. But this particular design also seems to dabble in some of the trappings Chinese consumers seem worried about.

More worrying is the possibility that global courtship of China will continue to influence designs and ideas that migrate here. While Maybach seems to have gone overboard with the Chinese aesthetic, and the language used to describe it, other high-end brands could follow suit if the market somehow finds it appealing.

As a strange aside to Mercedes’ pinnacle of luxury living room, the brand also promised a Maybach Future Mobility Concept for 2030. According to the company, the vehicle is an autonomous flying tandem two-seater can take off and land vertically. The automaker claims a huge Maybach logo will appear on the front and will define the entire fuselage area.

There will also be contrasting carbon-fiber wings “seamlessly positioned on the flying object in classic Maybach red.” It is apparently “ideal for longer journeys at the weekend.”


[Images: Daimler AG]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

51 Comments on “Attempting to Understand the Chinese Luxury Aesthetic...”

  • avatar

    Do I get marked down for re-using the “coming with length” one-liner yet again?

  • avatar


    (seriously if that interior isn’t the modern distillation of the velour button tuffed fake wood pull strap aesthetic…)

  • avatar

    ” I knew a family that had an all-white living room, and it was just a show piece.”

    I had a well-to-do uncle with one of those. At Christmas time we’d all cram into the ‘normal’ living room, and the show room would remain empty. Once in a while a couple of us kids would venture into it for a few minutes, but we were afraid to touch anything. People are weird.

    • 0 avatar

      I had a friend in middle school whose mom had one. The first time that I visited his home I started to step into it and my buddy grabbed my arm and yanked me back. No kids were allowed in there without full adult supervision. She also had clear vinyl covers over all of the upholstered furniture. They never really used it either, spending most of their time in the kitchen or the basement with the concrete block walls and pool table.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        I’ve seen people who have covered their car seats with the clear vinyl. Some taxis use the clear vinyl as well.

        It would be funny if a Bentley owner covered their car seats in clear vinyl.

      • 0 avatar

        Yes, I had neighbors with the never-used Living Room. Also, when visiting my Uncle’s house all us kids were never allowed to roam free. Immediately upon arrival we were herded down to the basement with all of their kids. Now, it wasn’t a bad place, there was a pool table and games and TV and all us kids had a grand time. But sending us all to the basement was the best way to keep us corralled while the parents enjoyed adult time. Its just that I never remembered what the rest of the house looked like because all I ever saw was the basement.

    • 0 avatar

      That was my world as a kid. My Mom had both a show living room and a show dining room, both with expensive high-end furniture. We kids were NOT allowed in either one. Invited guests only. We had an eat-in kitchen and a finished basement den where the TV was that were for day-to-day activities. It would be a cold day in h3ll that I would pay taxes on a bunch of rooms that are just for showing off.

      That Maybach room just looks cold, uncomfortable, and more than a bit tacky. But I go for a warm Scandinavian aesthetic, which is about as far from Chinese as you can get.

      • 0 avatar

        I’ve been in homes that are as aseptic and warm as a mausoleum. Not a place I’d want to live in. My ex had a friend who had white leather sofa’s and chairs. They had zero interest in children or pets.
        Me on the other hand, I look at things from the perspective of life with boys and dogs.

      • 0 avatar


        Growing up we had the same thing. It was so bad that the first time my grandmother ate in the dining room, several years after we lived there, she quipped “so, this is the dining room?” ala the Banquet Frozen dinner commercial.

    • 0 avatar

      We have all white (and black) living room and kitchen including carpet. Black are gas fireplace, hi end speakers and other AV equipment. And we spend most of time there. Dining room is a room we use only few times a year when have guests and it is mostly orange. And yeah furniture is high end, at least looks like, hand made mostly in USA.

    • 0 avatar


      It just proves that there’s little correlation between money, “prestigious marketing,” acclaimed designers, and good taste.

    • 0 avatar

      We had one of these in my dad’s household when I was growing up. At first. Then gradually the taboo broke and we started using it a lot more often, which was a relief. The white leather chair and sofa, amazingly enough, survived fine with regular cleaning.

  • avatar

    I had a Chinese girl friend awhile back and she loved to shop at this Italian modern furniture store. I had to keep reminding her I wasn’t going to spend thousands of dollars on furniture. She eventually figured out I was a cheap bastard and left me for someone who wasn’t afraid to max out his credit cards for some trim.

  • avatar

    I would like a nonfunctional luxury living room.

    But it would look much more subdued than that hot rose gold mess up there.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      I don’t have a living room either that’s functional.

      In Australia homes generally two living areas. Ones called the family room and is generally in an open plan area that combines a dining/kitchen/family room.

      This is where the family resides. Most Lounge (living room US) are not used for normal day to day life. My current lounge is my home theatre which houses a large flatscreen, PS4, and a floor to ceiling disc library. I only use it to watch movies/docos or play Gran Tourismo.

      One of my other homes has a formal dining, living, which are only used for dinner parties etc. You just live in the family room/kitchen/meals area.

    • 0 avatar

      I’d like a living room that looks just like Auric Goldfinger’s Kentucky lair.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Here’s the other side of luxury.

    Not all people who have money, I would even think most don’t buy those kinds of vehicles.

    The mere plebs spend and max out their repayments and think all the rich drive around in Bentleys. But the truth is many drive Accords, Hyundais, even Camrys (Camries?).

    The article generalises people with money. How many are there who comment on TTAC buy a vehicle well within their budget? How many have maxed out their vehicles expenses and running costs every payday?

    There are plenty of people who can afford to drive a lot more than they do. Many just use cars for transport and don’t care about the perception factor.

    I believe most of the “poorer” waannabe’s worry about perception more. Why? Because they just don’t have it to start with.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      Ah, yes, the tripe that anyone who drives anything more expensive than an Accord is drowning in debt, while the Accord owner (even better if bought used) is almost always a model financially who has several million in the bank but is too secure to show you any sign of it.

      At least that’s what people of very modest means like to tell themselves to feel better about life I guess.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        If you read and follow some commenters here on TTAC a few brag about what they own and how much they give away (HDC). I have found these types generally don’t have a pot to p!ss in and are insecure.

        You have those who have a little bit and are insecure and don’t want to share.

        Humans are odd animals.

        I have a friend in Miami and he drives a 2007 Accord and he owns 68 homes in Miami. The roof lining is falling down in the rear of the Accord. I asked him why? His answer is, “it does what I want”.

      • 0 avatar

        Ultimately, the rich do whatever they darned well please when it comes to cars, because they can. If they aren’t into cars and just want a Camry, so be it, they buy a Camry (though in my experience of actual very wealthy people, no they really don’t). But they may well have something REALLY expensive in the garage for sunny Sundays too. Or they may be driven around in a Mercedes Pullman, because again, they can do whatever they want.

        Warren Buffet may still drive around in an ancient Buick or whatever, but Bill Gates got Congress to make an import exception for his Porsche 959… More rich people are like Bill than like Warren.

        I do think the truly rich tend to be much less shouty about cars though, Denalis not Escalades. Or a perfectly restored old Grand Wagoneer instead of either.

        • 0 avatar

          @krhodes1 – I’ve run across companies that restore late model pickups, Toyota LandCruisers etc. One LandCruiser they did up had sun-visors from a Lear Jet. Very subtle but extremely expensive vehicles that look virtually identical to the original.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          The rich can do as they wish, I agree.

          But, if you look around many drive normal middle class vehicles everyday.

          It seems the ones who really fret over vehicles are the ones who have quite not made it.

          The other day a group of us went to a café for coffees and one started talking about a replacement vehicle for his wife and he wanted debating whether to buy a Audi or BMW SUV. I laughed and asked him why he wanted one and he stated to have the quickest V8 school kid getter SUV in town for his wife! The reality was it’s he had to maintain perception.

          I told him to buy a Toyota Fortuna as it would be as reliable and can go further off road and he literally turned his nose down at the mention of Toyota.

          • 0 avatar

            You don’t see very many ordinary Toyotas in the wealthier neighborhoods of New England (unless it is the help’s car) – a few Land Cruisers. More and more Lexus as you go south, but darned few in Maine. The local BMW/Infiniti store sold literally 10 BMWs for every Infiniti, and Volvo still sells a pile of cars there. Japanese cars have not outlived their reputations for rusting to bits among the people who can afford European without even thinking about it. The New England sensibility is that people who could afford a 7 series will buy a basic 328i or X3, not a Camry. If you are making $250K a year plus, does it really matter if you spend an extra $20K on a car every 3-4 years?

            I would turn my nose down at the mention of Toyota too, and it has very little to do with keeping up appearances. I appreciate that they are well-made and reliable, but they are universally nasty to drive and now ugly to boot. No thanks. I really could not care less what the neighbors think about what I drive. When I couldn’t afford new European cars I bought used European cars, because for the things I actually care about, they are simply better vehicles.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            I don’t consider BMW, Audi, Mercedes Benz much more than prestige cars, not luxury. Only their top end cars are really luxury.

            As for Toyota, I’d turn my nose down at one any day. The only Toyota I would consider is a 70s Series pickup with a V8 diesel. The car I would want is a Kia, the Stinger. The more I read about the Stinger and see them on the road the more I like them.

        • 0 avatar

          “Warren Buffet may still drive around in an ancient Buick or whatever”

          As far as I know Warren Buffet drives Corolla.

          • 0 avatar

            Actually CNBC has quoted him in 2012 as saying a “6 or 7 year old Cadillac”.

          • 0 avatar

            Buffett sold his DTS a couple of years ago at auction, and donated proceeds to charity.

            Dunno what he has now.

          • 0 avatar
            Middle-Aged (Ex-Miata) Man

            Corey, Buffett bought a new XTS in 2014.


            I think this passage is quite emblematic of GMs’ wholly and ridiculously misguided approach with Cadillac today:

            “Initially, Susie asked about a Cadillac CTS which Buffett’s “car guy friend” had recommended. (That “car guy” was GM (GM) CEO Mary Barra, but Susie didn’t reveal that piece of information either.)

            “But, based on Susie’s description of her father, Willers recommended the roomier, softer-riding Cadillac XTS, instead.”

          • 0 avatar

            Ah, thanks! The most logical successor to DTS.

          • 0 avatar
            Middle-Aged (Ex-Miata) Man

            Exactly… and it demonstrates how many (most?) Cadillac buyers really don’t want bargain-spec BMWs at non-bargain prices. They want a Cadillac, or the closest approximation thereof.

    • 0 avatar

      What rich people do with their cars varies very widely.

      Some frequent patterns emerge, though.

      – The Mercedes buyer. Buys a new E, S, GLE (formerly ML), or GLS every few years. Just buys off the lot and doesn’t spend too much time thinking about it. There is also a similar kind of Lexus buyer.
      – The SUV buyer. Always has something like a Lexus GX, Range Rover Sport, or X5 around. Again, buys a new one off the lot every few years.
      – The aficionado. Usually buys things like Grand Wagoneers, older Land Cruisers, old Lexus LSes, or even in some cases older Volvos and Subarus. Spends whatever it takes on mechanical maintenance regardless of the car’s book value, but often aggressively disregards cosmetics. Complains the new ones just aren’t the same, regardless of statistics.
      – The Just Don’t Care. In Seattle, usually has a Forester or CR-V. Which more often than not is parked in the driveway of a $3M house.

      There are a few weird car enthusiasts who have exotic or ultra-expensive machinery, but they are a small minority. (And I wish that assh0le with his Cayenne Turbo would stop driving up my residential street at 70 mph.)

  • avatar

    I’m shocked nobody has mentioned the built-in tea set in the back of that Maybach.

    Definitely a different set of priorities than a built-in champagne chiller…

  • avatar

    Anything Gorden Wagener of MB says should be taken with a liberal dose of salt. He’s overly impressed with himself, and you can buy his book dedicated to himself. Here’s part of the Amazon description:

    “Sensual Purity: Gorden Wagener on Design Hardcover – January 17, 2017. This item:Sensual Purity: Gorden Wagener on Design by Gorden; Glynn-Smith Hardcover $64.78.”

    Then look at the beached whales he’s created and still is.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re not kidding.

      Now, I’m not saying the man sends unprovoked DPs looking for praise or takes video of himself having sex, but he has the appearance of someone that might.

  • avatar

    I just hope the production version (?) of that living room comes complete with the testicles hanging everywhere and the “ULTIMATE LUXURY” script on the wall. So everyone knows you’re ultimate.

    I gotta say though, they are nothing if not consistent. I could see a person owning this room and that hideous sedan truck vehicle they showed off. German hubris shown through no holds barred, new money, east Asian design freedom.

  • avatar

    You want to understand the China luxury aesthetic? There is the one, there are many. There are the tastes of the first wave of ‘investors’ who came out of China and then there are the tastes of the merely well-to-do coming out now. The poliferation of Coach handbags and Ralph Lauren shirts with gigantic Polo emblems are aimed at the second group.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      The Chinese will be like the US with brand names. Eventually the Chinese will create some trendy fashion labels, maybe even with cars. I think with cars, though, the Chinese will end up like the US with no real luxury brand.

      The reason for my view on Chinese cars, is the Chinese are very closely emulating the US success story (yes, believe it or not), even down to building the biggest bridges, building most highways and rail, etc. The Chinese even have huge pollution issues, like the US did recently (70s).

      The Chinese are a manufacturer of consumer crap, like the US was. The Europeans took on and value added far better with global fashion and car brands.

      The Japanese gradually created trendy global luxury brands, maybe the Koreans will as well.

      Here’s an interesting series of photos I found (not much to do with fashion, maybe the end result of greed);

      • 0 avatar

        This is true, if you look at early American architecture, that too is an emulation/imitation, much like how China “borrows” elements from the west now. But what I mean is that there have been successive waves of capital flight from China the truly wealthy and then the well to. The second group are not like the first, but they in themselves are keeping up with the Jones with the precednt set by the first group. We’re already into a third group, the tourist class. These are the prosperous in domestic China who want to travel and see the world, but who aren’t necessarily looking to put one foot down in the west like the first two groups. As the global influence shifts from the first wave of plutocrats to the third wave of upper middle class, the tastes will shift from ostentatious displays of wealth to what we know as “casual luxury”. Here in my hometown, a luxury retailer carries Prada, Channel, etc and does a thriving business with Chinese tourists. But one of their best selling items are those trendy Canada Goose jackets, its practically a uniform for a young Chinese girl here. Funny thing is they keep a lot of stock on the floor, but it’s in the atrium just outside the store, not in the store proper. Sort of symbolic, this jackets are merely expensive, but they aren’t what the establishment would call true luxury, so you can’t just buy your way into a higher slice of society.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • dal20402: It was the 2002 concept that had suicide doors. The 2015 concept was nearly identical to the production...
  • Jeff S: The late night comedians do miss those late night tweets of Trump as he is sitting on the can. Never was that...
  • Jeff S: Very true you cannot have a mineral lease into perpetuity if you have not exercised the option to extract the...
  • Jeff S: @EBFlex–Now we both agree on something that Putin is full of it. See there is some room for...
  • Jeff S: @EBFlex–Again you are looking for an argument I said the car was not feasible until the Model T. Early...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber