Wednesday, November 25, 2009

New BMW 5 Series Has Hints of the 7 Series

What does the new BMW 5 Series have to do with a new Rolls-Royce Ghost? Each is being built on a modified BMW 7-Series chassis. BMW unveiled the new 5 Series – the sixth generation of the midrange German luxury car – this week in Munich. The unveiling, at the stadium where Munich hopes to host the 2018 Olympic Games, was attended in person by BMW executives and employees, and broadcast on television in Europe.

But BMW aficionados elsewhere in the world were rather curiously shortchanged. The company says it is not planning on introducing the 5 Series lineup at any of the upcoming auto shows – a departure from tradition.

The changes to the vehicle include styling touches meant to make the 5 Series look, feel and drive more like the pricier 7 Series. To that end, the 5 Series has grown a few inches in most directions. And it weighs in at several hundred pounds heavier than the equivalent outgoing models.

Despite a 7 Series lookalike grille treatment, the new 5 bears a lot of resemblance to the smaller 3 Series lineup, especially in profile.
The new chassis has a double-wishbone front suspension with cast-aluminum control arms, as well as BMW’s Integral-V multilink rear suspension.

In Europe, the 5-Series range will include five different sedans and seven different powertrain choices — one V-8, three inline-6s, two inline-6 diesels and one inline-4 diesel. The United States is likely to get a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 with 407 horsepower, single-turbo 3-liter inline-6 (306 horsepower), a 3-liter inline-6 (258 horsepower) and a turbocharged 3-liter inline-6 diesel (245 horsepower). A new 8-speed automatic transmission will be offered for the first time. How soon? Next year. How much? Nothing official, but like a good cut of steak, the price per pound is likely going up.
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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Buyers balk at 'world's most expensive show'

It has been billed as “the most expensive show on earth” and the Dubai Air Show did not disappoint with the equipment on display proving too costly for most attendees. After enjoying a record year in 2007, the tenth edition of the biennial event is feeling the effect of economic reality with many investors keeping their money in their pockets, with few big deals announced this week.

Sales of commercial aircraft at the show were their weakest since 2003. Only 42 planes, worth some $5.6 billion (£3.3 billion), were sold during the week. The only substantial order for commercial airliners was placed by Ethiopian Airlines, which confirmed a $2.9 billion deal with European manufacturer Airbus for 12 long-range A350 XWB aircraft.

Rolls-Royce, one of the few other companies to tie up significant business at the show, will supply engines to power the new Ethiopian planes. In total, the company won contracts worth $2.3 billion, including a $1.5 billion order for Trent 700 engines from Air China.

With some 900 exhibitors this year, organisers had claimed that Dubai now ranks alongside the industry’s leading annual showcase events at Farnborough and Paris. However, with aviation still suffering the effects of the global economic crisis, matching the level of business done in 2007 was not expected.

Two years ago, with the market buoyant and the Gulf region enjoying record levels of growth, orders for commercial aircraft topped $100 billion, led by Dubai’s government-owned carrier, Emirates, which opened the show by announcing orders for 143 new aircraft from Airbus and Boeing worth almost $35 billion.

The two main airliner manufacturers have struggled for sales this year, with many airlines cancelling or deferring orders. Although Boeing forecasts demand for 29,000 aircraft worth $3.2 trillion over the next 20 years, the company warns that most airlines are unlikely to return to profit until 2011, with orders for new aircraft only picking up in 2012.

Tom Enders, president and chief executive of Airbus, conceded that the industry’s difficulties will continue into next year and beyond.

“We all believe that 2010 and 2011 will still be quite challenging, but at this air show it is encouraging to see that there is still growth in the industry, particularly in the Middle East and Africa,” he said, speaking to reporters at the event.

“We are a growth industry, nobody debates that, and we are used to cycles, some deeper and more pronounced than others. If this is the worst economic crisis in generations, obviously we are not surprised that it affects aviation, but we will get through this.”
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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Frederique Constant Ladies Love Heart Beat

Lovers can feel the heart beating of each other, nervous or excited. All in all, everything is full of expectation. Frederique Constant got the inspiration of love and launched the Ladies Love Heart Beat whose dial is newly launched after the success of the Double Heart Beat Series.

It’s a typical representative of feminine beauty. Set the Geneva as its production base, the skeleton window of the Double Heart Beat Wristwatch is the symbol of Frederique Constant Ladies Wristwatch. This kind of wristwatch, FC-310 Ladies Love Automatic, is especially designed for women.

The unique dial features LOVE character written with decorative flowers. Letter O is hollowed to reveal the balance wheel of the wristwatch. When the watch is on normal running, the balance wheel sways regularly like the heart beating of human being. Meanwhile, the decorative LOVE and the watch bezel are paved with diamonds, making it a real luxury. On the center of the dial engraved the heart-shaped veins, enriching the details of the wristwatch.

With the diameter of 34mm, the watch case is decorated with diamond bezel which is surely to make it a piece of perpetual magnificence. The dial with decorative embossed hearts set a Love skeleton window with diamonds at the position of twelve o’clock as though a beating heart. Every detail of Ladies Love Automatic wristwatch shows the value and expectation of modern women. Its name indicates that more and more ladies like to wear automatic mechanical wristwatch. There is no doubt that such kind of wristwatch is the best alternative for men to show their love to their companions.

Frederique Constant “Ladies Love Automatic” wristwatch offers three colors for selection. The most attracting two kinds should be the styles of rose gold case with chocolate MOP dial and the stainless steel watch case with white MOP dial. Each kind is enchased with diamonds of different amount, delivering the beauty of fashion. We can say that Frederique Constant “Ladies Love Automatic” is the compliment of feminine beauty and “Love”.
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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Top 5 Most Expensive Mobile Phones in the World

Until recently, the vast majority of mobile phones had been priced between £100 and £300, with only Vertu, a division of Nokia, manufacturing uber-premium phones. With prices starting at around £4,000 Vertu phones are only for the filthy rich, and the super famous.

However, Vertu’s monopoly of the luxury phone market is coming to an end with the launch of several new luxury mobile makers, including Gresso, Mobiado and GoldVish. Other mobile phone manufacturers are also partnering with luxury brands to produce a range of premium mobile phones, such as LG and Prada, D&G and Motorola, and now Tag Heuer and Modelabs. Finally, there are the ridiculous, super-expensive one-offs, made purely for headline grabbing, such as Goldvish’s “Le million”, worth a cool $1,000,000, see below for details!

1. Goldvish “Le million” = $1,000,000 (£540,540)

A PR stunt it may be, and they surely can’t be expecting to sell any, but the Goldvish “Le million” is officially the most expensive mobile phone in the world, according the Guiness Books of Records. There’s even been talk of a $1.3million phone, but this has fewer diamonds than the Goldvish so I can’t see where the extra expense comes from! The “Le million” is a one off, featuring a blinding 120 carats worth of VVS-1 grade diamonds, according to designer Emmanuel Gueit. If $1 million is out of your price range. the Geneva-based Goldvish also offer several other diamond-encrusted 18k gold models in your choice of rose, yellow, or white, starting at a much more reasonable $25,600 (£13,837).

2. Vertu Signature Cobra = $310,000 (£167,567)

Vertu is now taking orders for the Signature Cobra, designed by French jeweler Boucheron, but you had better be quick as only 8 are being made! The Cobra will feature one pear-cut diamond, one round white diamond, two emerald eyes and 439 rubies. Vertu will also be offering a “cheaper” version, ruby free, at $115,000 (£62,162).

3. Sony Ericsson Black Diamond = $300,000 (£162,162)

Apparently the Black Diamond will be available in 2007, not from Sony Ericsson but by a company called VIPN. Initially only 5 unique numered pieces will be available for the unbelievable price of, wait for it… $300,000.

With regards to the specifications, don’t expect anything remarkable for your money. It will have Quad-band with Wi-Fi, an Intel 400Mhz processor running windows mobile 5, and a touch sensitive 2″ screen. It will also include internal memory of 128mb and will come with a 2Gb SD card for external storage, plus a respectable 4 Megapixel camera.

The designer Jaren Goh has used some pretty impressive materials for the build, featuring titane with polycarbonate, mirror-finish cladding and diamonds.

4. Vertu Signature Diamond = $88,000 (£47,567)

The Diamond is Vertu’s premium range of high-end mobile phones. As the name suggests the handsets in the Diamond range are diamond-encrusted handsets made from platinum. Only 200 of the handsets are being produced, the most expensive believed to be worth an estimated £50,000.

5. Motorola V220 Special Edition = £28,000 ($51,800)

Austrian designer Peter Aloisson, has taken a standard Motorola, studded it with 1,200 diamonds and added a keyboard inlaid with 18 carat gold. The outcome is a £28,000 handset, suitable only for footballers and film stars!
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Monday, November 16, 2009

BPL's most expensive flop

A FASCINATING battle of wills is unfolding in rich Manchester City. And whatever happens, one thing will be for sure: Robinho will become the Barclays Premier League's most expensive flop. The Brazilian forward, bought last season from Real Madrid for an English record £34.2 million (S$79.5 million) as a show of financial might by the Abu Dhabi owners of the club, is apparently desperate to return to Spain - preferably to champions Barcelona.

His predicament was broadcast by his agent to The National, a newspaper in Abu Dhabi, where the club are having their mid-season training camp amid a two-week international break. Man City's chief executive, Garry Cook, has moved quickly to quell the rumours, telling The Times of London: "There are no plans to meet Barcelona here this week to talk about Robinho. I think some people are trying to make mischief when they talk about him leaving.

"Recent reports that he may leave on loan or be sold in January are categorically untrue."

However, The Guardian reported that City have reluctantly accepted that the player whose signing was supposed to symbolise the club's ambitions "does not want another day in Manchester".

Manager Mark Hughes, whom Robinho has not warmed up to, has apparently started the search for a possible replacement.

Benfica's Angel di Maria has been identified and has a £27 million buyout clause in his contract.

The question seems to be when, rather than if, Robinho leaves.

If that is so, then he will be regarded as nothing but an extravagant signing - all hot air but no substance as he failed to lift his club in any manner.

Last season, he began his City career quite brilliantly before fading off with injury. This season, he has yet to play a game as he recuperates from those ailments.

With his playboy antics and lifestyle (he asked for official leave to return to Brazil to celebrate his birthday), the Brazilian is hardly a reliable linchpin to build a team around, even if he is eventually forced to stay with City.

As the battle of wills continues, he is becoming a huge distraction to the squad's ambitions to break into the BPL's Big Four clubs.

It would make sense for City to sever ties as soon as possible, no matter how embarrassing this signing is turning out to be.

Remember, they snatched Robinho from under Chelsea's nose right at the end of last season's August transfer window.

They thought they had just pulled off the BPL's biggest transfer coup. Instead, they are now having trouble accepting what would shape up to be the most expensive flop in the league's history.
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Sunday, November 15, 2009

States With The Most Expensive Cars

It's long been conventional wisdom that big cities--centers of population, wealth and commerce--are where the most luxury cars are sold. It turns out, however, that you're more than likely to see a Lamborghini on the streets in Missouri, where Chevrolet is the biggest-selling brand in general, or a Ferrari in Washington state.

There were just as many Ferraris sold in Washington last year as there were in Connecticut, a well-known haven for Wall-Street warriors and home to some of the country's most expensive ZIP codes. In fact, the states with the highest populations don't necessarily sell the highest number of cars each year--and they certainly don't always sell the most luxury cars.

In Depth: States With The Most Expensive Cars

Minnesota, for instance, is the eighth-most populous state in the union, but it didn't make our list of top-sellers for luxury vehicles. And while Michigan is the ninth-most populous state, it registers thousands more high-end cars each year than Illinois, which has the fifth-highest people of any state.

Broadly speaking, however, California, Florida and New York are the epicenters for luxury and exotic cars. That's important because automakers must cater to their widest audiences as they introduce each new model--especially with launches of 2010 models in high gear.

Behind the Numbers
To determine the states where drivers purchase the most luxury cars, we used data provided by Experian Automotive, a Schaumburg, Ill.-based analysis and consulting firm. Experian provided registration numbers, by car brand, for each state and further itemized each car brand based on where it registered the most units. We then calculated the percentage of luxury cars sold compared to total new cars sold in each state and ranked them accordingly.

Experian analysts tallied the number of registrations of all new models sold in the 50 states and the District of Columbia for the reporting period of September 2008 to August 2009. The numbers reflect individual registrations, not fleet or business sales.

Such data help manufacturers know their strongest markets--and learn where they can improve. The information helps automakers define and satisfy their customer, says Jeff Anderson, director of consulting and analytics for Experian Automotive--which is especially important in such a loyalty-driven industry.

Almost 70% of consumers purchase the same make or brand as their current vehicle, according to an Oct. 28 study by the global consulting firm Capgemini. That number is up from 61% last year. A full 63% of respondents said they would purchase from the same dealer where they bought their current car. Its a sign of the times, says Joseph Oddo, a senior manager at Capgemini.

"There is an uptick as far as brand loyalty and as far as consumer satisfaction with the buying process," he says, noting that luxury dealerships do particularly well at creating repeat customers.. "You go to a brand you know, that you can trust--especially with high-ticket items like a vehicle."

Pockets of Luxury
The big three sellers on our luxury list are Lexus (153,809 units sold nationwide), BMW (144,472 units sold nationwide) and Mercedes-Benz (131,146 units sold nationwide).

In California, consumers tend to buy German: Drivers there are more than twice as likely to buy a BMW than any other luxury brand. In fact, the big two German automakers made the No. 1 or No. 2 slots in all 10 states that landed on our list. California, Florida, New York and Texas--in that order--were the top-selling states for each of those brands.

Florida is the standout, as it has a smaller population than both New York and Texas (18.3 million compared to 19.5 million and 24.3 million), but it outsells both of them when it comes to luxury cars. Almost 14% of all cars sold in Florida are from luxury brands, versus 11% in New York and just 6% in Texas--which is even more remarkable because the median income for Florida last year ($48,095) was less than that of New York ($51,763).

It could be partly because Miami in particular is experiencing a cultural renaissance. Sissy DeMaria, the president of Kreps DeMaria, a Miami-based marketing firm, says Latin American developers--who have escaped the recession largely unscathed--have dramatically boosted the local economy by investing heavily in luxury hotels, retail outlets and million-dollar homes around the city. “Miami is for sale,” DeMaria says. That influx of funds likely applies to cars as well.

The northern U.S. tells a different story. German automakers BMW and Mercedes sell many more units in Los Angeles than in Detroit: "Domestics and Japanese reign supreme in Motown," says Mike Caudill, an automotive expert for the vehicle data Web site NADA Guides. Cadillac sold 3,000 more cars in Michigan than any of its luxury competitors.

Maserati topped the list among brands that sell 1,200 models a year or less in all but three states: New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Drivers in those states seem to prefer their cars to be of British heritage--Bentley registered 63 units in New Jersey and 20 in Pennsylvania. Aston Martin registered 20 cars in Virginia, which Anderson says makes sense when you consider that the staid wealth that has accumulated around the nation's capital is likely to prefer an understated vehicle, rather than something flashier, like a Ferrari.

And while neither appears on the final list, two other European brands--Rolls-Royce ( RYCEY.PK - news - people ) and Maybach--reported disproportionately high (albeit extremely exclusive) registration numbers in Nevada. That's thanks, no doubt, to the real estate titans and entertainment moguls in Las Vegas, Anderson says.

So why are Lamborghinis so popular in Missouri? For the same reason they are anywhere else a Lambo dealership opens.

"It's the bravado of the Lamborghini, the attraction," says Steve Burks, the marketing director at Motorcars International in Springfield, Mo. "The extreme aggressiveness of the car basically just draws people to the brand." Even in a state where most people drive a Chevy.
Courtesy: forbes.com
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Friday, November 6, 2009

Top 10 Most Expensive Hotels #1 Westin Rome

The Top 10 Most Expensive Hotels in the World starts with #1 Ranked Westin Excelsior Hotel, of Rome which has been offering the best of hospitality to celebrities, artists, diplomats, business tycoons and style icons from across the globe since 1906.

The hotel is situated in the prime location of the district of Via Veneto in Rome, the Eternal City. Renowned for its excellent service, the Westin Excelsior Hotel offers its guests a delicious drink to rejoice and revelries in an exquisite setting. One night stay amidst lures of luxuries at this hotel’ suite costs $29,255.

With sumptuously furnished 35 suites and 281 guest rooms, the Westin Excelsior Hotel is a hub of luxury for tourists from the peak of economic heaps. Villa Cupola the largest suite at the hotel has recently undergone a renovation for seven million dollars. The modern interior decoration of Villa Copula oozes dollops of splendor and grandeur of the hotel.

Activities

The Westin Excelsior offers an array of activities to keep its guests on the go even on holiday vacations. The best of all refreshments at the hotel is dining at Restaurant Doney. Dining delights including Roman favorites offered at the restaurant are rare to be found in other parts of the city. Guests can enjoy a personalized workout in the health club fully equipped with gym equipments. Indulgence in massage therapies at the state-of-the-art spa center of the hotel is a source of both physical and mental comfort.

Dining

Dining in a swanky ambience adds to your stay at this luxurious hotel. Binging on Roman delicacies is a pleasure with guests to the Westin Excelsior. One of the most coveted nightspots in Rome, this dining center of the hotel offers elegant candlelit indoor tables and charming sidewalk café tables.

Meetings & Weddings

The Westin Excelsior Hotel offers a super service to host business events, social parties and ceremonious functions in a grand style. Catering services and staffs are available here to facilitate all arrangements. With colorful stained glass ceiling, plaster medallions and gilded columns, the Winter Garden is the most beautiful venue for grand events.
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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Savvy shoppers are digging deep for new car deals

When Jitka Dvorak went shopping for a new car to replace her Audi A4, she was shocked.

“It was amazing; it was like a carnival,” says the North Vancouver realtor who is juggling the decision to buy a new Volvo, or perhaps the restyled 2010 Subaru Outback.

Like so many others, Dvorak found dealers anxious to clear out leftover 2009 models now that November has arrived, along with a flood of new 2010s.

But shoppers such as Dvorak, says Paul Timoteo of the new-car pricing service www.carcostcanada.com, are being more careful than ever.

“Sales in Canada are down 15 per cent this year, so I'd say people are digging a lot harder for information and to get the right price,” says Timoteo, whose service sells five new-car price reports for $39.95. The reports include current incentives, finance and lease rates and dealer invoice pricing. Car Cost Canada also provides a dealer referral service.

It is no surprise that in a down market, new-car deals abound.

Indeed, strong brands such as Acura, Honda's luxury brand, have dealer discounts and factory incentives on every single 2009 model in the lineup – and even certain slow-moving 2010s are in showrooms loaded with sweeteners to get buyers to pull the trigger on a deal.

But Canada has suffered recessions before and car sales have slipped in past years, too. So what makes 2009 different? Shoppers are expanding their list of potential choices. At Car Cost Canada, the list of the top 20 most popular models for which pricing reports are requested includes vehicles Timoteo has never seen before in two decades in the business.

Sure, perennial best-sellers such as the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla remain popular, but savvy shoppers who do mountains of research also appear to be willing to expand their options to include models from Ford, Chevrolet, Hyundai, Mazda and Subaru.

“That list [top 20] we feel is a leading indicator of where the market is going,” Timoteo says. “We have never had an American car on the top 20 list before – other than the [Pontiac] Vibe, which was a rebadged Toyota Matrix,” says Timoteo, noting the Ford F-150 pickup, the Ford Escape small SUV and the Ford Fusion mid-size sedan are all among his 20 most- researched vehicles.

Dvorak is among those doing her homework. She has spent hours gathering feature and pricing information and diligently worked her way through a serious of test drives. Right now, she's leaning toward a Subaru Outback. The 2010 version, she says, surprised her with its quality and driving characteristics, but the real eye-opener was pricing.

Subaru Canada, under pressure to boost sales from its parent, Fuji Heavy Industries, recognized for 2010 that its buyers are some of the most demanding and technologically savvy customers in the auto industry. Those buyers frequently research pricing in the United States and compare it with Canada, too. In the end, the company decided to offer more for less with the revised Outback and its Legacy cousin.

Thus, the basic version of the 2010 Subaru Outback, the 2.5i PZEV ($28,995), is $2,000 less expensive than last year's model and the ritzy Limited 2.5i ($35,795) model is down $3,600. That's for a wagon-y crossover with new styling, more features, tighter handling, a bigger interior and industry-leading safety and quality.

Not surprisingly, Subaru Canada's sales are up more than 8 per cent on the year. With new 2010 Legacy and Outbacks rolling into showrooms for the first time, Subaru's September sales soared a whopping 68.4 per cent.

“Improve your car, lower your price – magic. That formula works every time. Sales go up,” Timoteo says.

That's a truism in the auto industry and, while it's easier said than done, it certainly works. Great deals help juice sales across the board, but great deals on improved products lead to spectacular results.

“Almost without exception, products that have been recently renewed – the Toyota Venza, Matrix and Corolla, Mazda3, etc. – are performing quite well. And products that are getting long on the tooth – Toyota Yaris, Ford Ranger, Honda Accord and Civic, Dodge Grand Caravan, etc. – are underperforming relative to their competitors,” notes Dennis DesRosiers of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants.

“There are exceptions – like when an OEM [original equipment manufacturer] puts serious money on the windshield of any model it will increase sales no matter what the age of the vehicle – for example, the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra in September. But barring these, there is a close relationship between new-product introductions and sales performance.”

For new-car buyers, the trick is to find the best deal on the right make and model – one that you can live with for eight years. Eight years? That's the average length of time a Canadian holds onto a new vehicle.

“You can get a great deal on a car, but if you hate it, what kind of deal is it, really?” Timoteo asks. “I'm advocating an emotional approach to choosing your next car and an unemotional approach to deciding what and how you're going to pay for it.”

So once you've narrowed down your choices to three or four you'd own and enjoy for eight years, it's time to research deals and do some serious shopping and test-driving. Many auto makers at this time of year have inventories of 2009 models just as 2010s are rolling on to dealer lots and that often signals a buying opportunity.

Also, new-car sales were down 14.3 per cent through the first nine months of this year. Thus, the push is on to sell more than ever. Buyers who research price trends, visit numerous dealers and negotiate assertively can pick up a set of wheels at an impressive discount.

Indeed, auto makers are offering generous deals, including cash-back offers and low financing rates across a wide range of vehicles. Some of the best deals are available on once-hot models, too. For instance, until recently BMW was offering a $4,000 cash incentive to dealers selling leftover 2009 BMW X3 SUVs in a cash purchase. An updated 2010 X3 is arriving soon, so the pressure is on to move any leftover 2009 metal.

Cadillac's slick and sporty 2009 CTS sedan had been available with up to $10,500 in incentives for the buyer able to tap into a $6,000 factory-to-dealer rebate, a $3,000 Cash for Clunkers program, a $1,000 GM Loyalty bonus and a $500 Canadian Forces Appreciation program. These various incentives were set to expire Nov. 2, as all promotions do at some point. New programs usually take their place at the start of each month.

Infiniti, the luxury brand of Nissan Motor, has had a $5,000 incentive on 2009 versions of the E35 luxury compact SUV. Hyundai, until recently, was goosing sales of its 2010 Sonata mid-size car with a $3,500 incentive that could be combined with 0-per-cent financing for up to four years.

And so on and so on. Timoteo and others, however, caution against buying any new vehicle before you are absolutely ready. Regardless of how enticing the deal, always be patient and do your homework.

“At the end of the day, the right time to buy is when you're ready to buy,” Timoteo says.

That's advice a very patient Jitka Dvorak is taking to heart.
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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Fast luxury's slow sell

Local motorists bored with their Mercedes, BMW or Bentley have one place to go around here where someone will listen to such troubles without judgment, without even a snicker. At Maryland's only Maserati dealer, they understand.

On York Road in Timonium, of all places, across from Bagel Works and next to Timonium Animal Hospital, Jack Davis, the general manager, and salesman Alfred Ramos hear the stories of men, and even the occasional woman, in pursuit of something ... something ... else. It's not a matter of "need" in the usual sense of the word, as Ramos acknowledged.

"No one needs a Maserati," he said.

The curvaceous body, the 400-plus horsepower, the lightning-fast transmission, the Italian leather, the breathtaking pickup and braking, the conspicuous prestige - this blend of muscle and luxury is not the stuff of need but of desire.

Maserati builds fewer than 8,000 of these cars a year, all by hand, catering to a most exclusive club.

"What we're selling is the line of separation" Ramos said.

It's for Ramos and Davis to consider the line between those who can afford to join the club and those who can only dream about it. They comprise the entire sales staff and half the employees of Maserati of Baltimore, now in its third year in Baltimore County. One of 52 dealerships in 28 states, according to the company Web site, the store is open - really.

This point might escape passers-by peering into the showroom, which often seems to have been abandoned by humans to the stunning presence of Maseratis, Lamborghinis and Ferraris, cars that start at nearly $130,000 new and quickly accelerate.

When the place opened in 2007, local reaction was mixed. Some wondered what in the world a Maserati dealership was doing in Baltimore. Others thought such recognition of the county's status was overdue. Some couldn't help but ask: Are you going to make it?

More than two years later, Davis does not seem concerned, no matter the recession and the fact that sales are down about 40 percent from 2008, when he said the dealership sold "about 40" new cars, nearly hitting their target.

"The store is not going away," he said, seeming unconcerned about the quiet prevailing in the shop.

For hours on end on one rainy and cool October weekday, the phones scarcely rang, and the only people to step through the glass doors were delivering something - a mail carrier, a UPS guy, a fellow wheeling in a small load of tires. Davis insisted that business is fine, or as fine as it needs to be in a place where they call it a good month if they sell four new cars. Managers at local Nissan, Lexus and Toyota dealers said their monthly sales quotas are between 100 and 180 new cars.

This is Maserati, where Davis said foot traffic scarcely tells the story. To paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald: Selling really expensive cars to the very rich is different from selling less pricey ones to you and me.

"When someone walks in, I'm not trying to leap on them and try to sell them something," said Davis. He said he'd rather they step into the lounge equipped with blue leather couches, the giant TV tuned to the Speed Channel and the Italian coffee machine dispensing espressos, macchiatos and cappuccinos at the touch of a few buttons.

A test drive? Maybe, but probably not right away.

"You've got to use discretion," said Ramos, who has been here since the place opened, having previously worked at a high-volume, high-pressure Land Rover/Jaguar dealership in Tysons Corner, Va. "It's not a kiddie ride, to come in and say 'I drove the Maserati.' "

Say a guy walks in - and it's almost always a guy - says he'd like to have a look around, poke his head into a Quattroporte, settle into the cockpit of a GranTurismo and get a whiff of that Poltrona Frau leather. The car smells like a large, new wallet.

Ramos said he'll ask questions: What kind of cars have you driven? What did you like about them? What did you not like?

"Nine times out of 10 that'll flush out the clowns," Ramos said.

Davis put it this way: "If somebody's coming in here to scam me on a ride, I'm going to pick that up."

They recalled a fellow driving onto the lot a few months ago in an old pickup truck. The conversation went well enough so that the fellow that day test drove a Quattroporte (the four-door) and bought one that week. With one check.

More often, it's less colorful than that. Davis and Ramos spend much of their time cultivating sales leads by working the phones and the cocktail circuit, or just showing up at certain restaurants.

"You go to where someone is paying $50 for a steak," said Ramos.

"Or $80," said Davis.

A good prospect might be someone who has "had their third or fourth or fifth Mercedes Benz. They're bored. They want something else," said Davis. One eventual buyer had had his fill of the BMW "7" series. Another prospect of the moment is "bored with his Bentley."

Given a name and an appointment for a showroom visit, Davis and Ramos can research the prospect ahead of time, do a little Googling. If things check out, Ramos said, it's time to let the car make the pitch.

"You gotta get him in the car. You don't put on the squeeze."
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Monday, November 2, 2009

Bijoudally leather jewelry is a chic, budget-friendly indulgence

When I was a poor college student, my mom would always slip me a little extra cash because "every girl needs a new lipstick now and again." And she was right -- on my rice-and-beans budget, a new tube of lipstick or inexpensive pair of earrings was a welcome bit of indulgence.

Jewelry designer Andrea Bijou has taken that concept of small luxuries and run with it with her year-old laser-cut leather jewelry line, Bijoudally (meaning "jewelry play"). "I saw many of my friends lose their jobs and struggle with the economy, but they still wanted to have something nice every once in a while," she explains.

"It was important for me to make accessories that were affordable," Bijou continues. "I found that it's way easier to make an expensive product than it is cheap one, so that was a challenge. Through conquering that challenge came the ability to make everything in the Northwest for lower costs, which gives all my suppliers and vendors business."

Add that her jewelry is a unique and dazzling blend of Bohemian chic and vintage Art Nouveau, and everyone's a winner.

The Bijoudally collection contains 15 pieces of red, black, maroon, gold and silver laser-cut leather earrings, bracelets and necklaces ranging in price from $24.95 to $60. The small price tag does not reflect the big statement that this jewelry makes. The Spoke earrings ($30), for example, are more than two inches across and three inches long. Slip a pair of silver ones on and let them speak for themselves.

Bijou's bestseller is the Bouquet necklace, which at $60 is her most expensive (and most elaborate) piece. A mélange of seven different flowers, starbursts and swirls, this piece epitomizes "statement necklace," spanning three-and-a-half inches across and five inches from top to bottom.

Bracelets ($40) come with magnetic clasps and can be stacked for added effect. My favorite, the Dizzy bracelet, features concentric circles tied together with gold- or silver-plated wire and is a stunner that stands on its own.
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