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Archive for Mercedes Benz

The Latest Look at the Cars of the Stars via [msnautos]

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OPULUXE Lounge GroovesPlayList

Stars and Their Cars

By Josh
Condon
of MSN Autos

Us Weekly magazine might tell you that stars are “just like us.”
But, in reality, they aren’t. We find they tend to drive better cars —
much better cars, ranging from the absurd to the eco-conscious to the
practical-chic. But this is nothing new. The love affair between celebs
and tasty automobiles is well-documented. And while piloting a
million-dollar-plus Ferrari Enzo around town to pick up, say, an iced
caffè mocha at the local Starbucks might seem like overkill to you,
it’s normal to these luminaries. Here we highlight 10 coveted,
cutting-edge or just plain weird rides and the celebs who own them.

Paris Hilton in her Bentley (© Rex Features)

Paris Hilton in her Bentley



Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren

Multitasker Pharrel
Williams
— one-half of the producing duo the Neptunes, front man
for the band N.E.R.D and co-creator of the fashion lines Billionaire
Boys Club and Ice Cream — is known for his distinct personal style at
least as much as for his musical prowess, and said style extends to his
rides. Not only does he have a $455,000 Mercedes-Benz
SLR McLaren
with a supercharged 5.5L V8 engine parked in his
driveway, he also counts a $1 million, carbon-fiber, Formula 1-inspired
Ferrari
Enzo
(top speed: 221 mph) for his daily errands about town.

Pharrel Williams and Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren (© AP Photo/Matt  <br/>Dunham/Mercedes-Benz USA)

Pharrel Williams and the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren

Audi R8 Supercar

Lauren
Conrad
is a TV star from the MTV shows “Laguna Beach” and “The
Hills.” While you can easily say her roles lack, well, substance, you
cannot say the same for Conrad’s ride. It is full of it, in a good way.
She rides around Los Angeles in the incredible Audi
R8
supercar. The midmounted monster — which goes zero to 60 mph in
4.6 seconds, delivers 317 lb-ft of torque and has a top speed of 187
mph — is also favored by macho types such as English soccer ace Robbie
Fowler and actor David Hasselhoff. So, while seeing a tiny, blond,
SoCal reality TV star tooling around in this powerhouse is a bit
disconcerting, it’s also, dare we say it, totally awesome! It sure
beats Paris Hilton’s cringe-inducing pink
Bentley
.

Lauren Conrad Audi R8 (© Louise Barnsley/Nate  <br/>Jones/PacificCoastNews.com)

Lauren Conrad and her Audi R8

1968 Ford Mustang Cobra

While the Jonas Brothers’ music may appeal to the tween girl set,
the car Nick
Jonas
drives comes straight out of a ZZ Top video. As soon as he
turned 16, the Disney-produced guitar player and vocalist was spotted
cruising around his Toluca Lake, Calif., neighborhood in a shiny black
1968 Ford Mustang Cobra with white racing stripes. Although we doubt
the young crooner spent hours rehabilitating the classic muscle car
getting grease under those manicured nails, we have to give him credit
for one badass ride.

Nick Jonas Driving 1968 Mustang (© Gaz Shirley/Matt Symons)

Nick Jonas and his vintage 1968 Ford Mustang Cobra

GMC Yukon Hybrid

For at least one nod to practicality on this list, we turn to “Walk
the Line” actress Reese
Witherspoon
and her vehicle of choice. Rather than the ever-popular
Toyota
Prius
favored by Hollywood’s eco warriors, or the MINI
Cooper
(a hit with “Twilight” star Kristen Stewart), this petite
thespian and mother drives to and fro in a massive GMC
Yukon Hybrid
. And while the SUV’s gas mileage is not exactly at
Prius levels (it gets about 21 mpg on the highway), it sports a monster
V8 engine and can tow up to 6,000 pounds. What a famous Hollywood
actress commanding $15 million to $20 million per picture needs with
that kind of power is unclear, but it’s pretty cool nonetheless.

Reese Witherspoon and GMC Yukon Hybrid (© AP Photo/Jacquelyn  <br/>Martin / General Motors)

Reese Witherspoon and the GMC Yukon Hybrid

Tesla Roadster

While Fergie is probably the most recognized member of the Black
Eyed Peas, will.i.am
is definitely the most politically minded, as proven by his bizarre
“hologram” in a ratings stunt with CNN’s Anderson Cooper after the 2008
presidential election. Nonetheless, the musician puts his environmental
politics into action with his choice of car, the Tesla
Roadster
. Based on the super-sporty Lotus Elise, this pure
electric racer does zero to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds. It develops 248
horsepower and gets 244 miles per charge. It’s so sporty, in fact, that
another famous musician and Tesla owner — Flea, bassist for the Red
Hot Chili Peppers — has said that it makes his Porsche feel “like a
golf cart.”

will.i.am and Tesla Roadster (© AP Photo/Matt Dunham  <br/>/Mercedes-Benz USA)

will.i.am and the Tesla Roadster

1959 Rolls-Royce Convertible

Normally, music superstar <a onclick=”window.open(this.href);return
false;” href=”http://music.msn.com/music/artist-photos/beyonc%c3%a9/”>Beyoncé
Knowles is spotted with the type of entourage that suggests she
doesn’t spend too much time actually driving herself anywhere. And
that’s a shame, considering that on her 25th birthday, her
then-boyfriend (now husband), rapper and music mogul Jay-Z, surprised
her with a 1959 Rolls-Royce
convertible. No definite details as to model — though as a convertible
it’s most likely a Silver Cloud. Regardless, it’s hard to argue with a
classic luxury automobile reported to be worth a cool million bucks as a
“congratulations for being one year older” gift.

Beyonce and Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud (© AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Beyoncé and the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud

Bugatti Veyron

Who knew being obnoxious on overhyped network TV contests was so
lucrative? One look at the Bugatti Veyron that “American Idol” judge Simon
Cowell
ponied up $1.7 million for tells us everything we need to
know about the financial prospects of pomposity. With a top speed of
more than 253 mph, the Veyron holds the title of the fastest (and most
expensive) street-legal car on the road today. Consequently, Cowell can
sit in judgment of all other motorists around him, anywhere in the
world. Even more proof that nice guys finish last: Cowell purchased the
Bugatti within a few days of picking up a $434,000 Rolls-Royce Phantom
Drophead Coupe.

<a class=”single MSNVideo” onclick=”return
Msn.Navigation.OpenNew(event,this)” href=”http://video.msn.com/video.aspx?mkt=us&tab=left&vid=54ce6ab2-1e20-4acf-abe7-2103dc8ff0b0″&gt;Watch
Video:
Introducing the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand
Sport

Simon Cowell and Bugatti Veyron (© AP Photo/Dan Steinberg)

Simon Cowell and the Bugatti Veyron

Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe

Noted black-on-black (aka “murdered out”) luxury vehicle enthusiast
and sometime-international soccer star David
Beckham
has been spotted driving around Los Angeles in a sleek,
blacked-out Rolls-Royce
Phantom Drophead Coupe
. The ride’s color scheme matches his
$400,000 customized Porsche
911
Cabriolet Turbo and jacked-up Jeep
Wrangler
, and rounds out the luxury lineup in his garage, which
also includes a Ferrari
F430
and a V10
Lamborghini Gallardo
. His wife, Victoria — aka Posh, former Spice
Girl turned Marc Jacobs muse and international fashion plate — plays
the ivory to Becks’ ebony in a white Porsche 911 Cabriolet.

David Beckham Driving Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe (©  <br/>Johnstone, Symons, PacificCoastNews.com)

David Beckham and his Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe

GM EcoJet

Jay
Leno
isn’t your typical celebrity car owner. He is actually a true
automotive enthusiast extraordinaire. His collection of rare and odd
vintage rides is legendary. But, as a true gearhead, Leno is just as
impressed by speed and power as by quirk and collectability. Take his
EcoJet prototype, for instance. Leno helped design the one-of-a-kind
supercar (with help from his own Big Dog garage team and the design
gurus at General Motors). It is essentially a modified Corvette
Z06
that runs on biodiesel and is powered by a 650-horsepower
LT-101 jet engine, similar to the ones found in Coast Guard
helicopters. The team is still working out the kinks to get it on the
road, but in the meantime you can see (and hear) Leno and team firing
it up at his official
car Web site
.

Watch:
Jay Leno and his EcoJet

Jay Leno With EcoJet Concept (© General Motors and Wieck Media  <br/>Services, Inc.)

Jay Leno and his turbine-powered EcoJet

1962 Ferrari 250 GTO

American fashion icon Ralph Lauren’s car collection has everything
from the ultraclassic (Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing Coupe) to the
iconic (Porsche 550 Spyder) to the bizarre (Jaguar XKD) — and those are
just some of his cars from 1955! It’s hard to choose favorites among
such a select stable, but if we could abscond with one of his
incredible rides, chances are it would be the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO.
Only 39 of these unmistakable Italian beauties were produced between
1962 and 1964, and they are widely considered to be one of Enzo
Ferrari’s greatest achievements — if not the greatest. And they’re
priced accordingly: 250 GTOs (top speed: 170 mph) have sold at auctions
over the years for anywhere from $2 million to more than $15 million.

Pictures:
Vintage Ferraris

1962 Ferrari GTO (© The Ralph Lauren Collection)

Ralph Lauren’s 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO




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OpuluxeLtd.com Luxury Lifestyle Special Report: Platinum Brands via [Forbes]

Beyond The Balance Sheet: Platinum Brands

Christina Settimi and Kurt Badenhausen

The most valuable luxury brands will shine in a recovery.

image

In Pictures: Platinum Brands

To some, BMW seemed a bit out of touch with hard times when it rolled out an exuberant ad campaign called “Joy” this year. Turns out, the ad campaign is in tune with the opportunities BMW and other luxury brand makers anticipate as the recession fades.

Last year was the worst year ever for global luxury goods, with worldwide sales falling 8%. But in a look at the world’s most valuable luxury brands, Forbes identifies 10 that are poised to thrive in better economic times. These brands, including BMW and Louis Vuitton, share some qualities that help keep them strong even when wealthy consumers are curtailing spending.

The companies behind these brands emphasize their products’ quality, longevity and pleasure-giving features through marketing efforts that make it likely these brands will continue to do well, especially if luxury sales around the world grow by 4% to $210 billion this year, as predicted by Bain & Co., the Boston-based consulting firm.

Feng Li/Getty Images

Close

No. 10: Porsche

Parent Company: Porsche
Brand Value: $4.8 billion
Brand Sales: $8.7 billion

Statia Photography/Getty Images for Cartier

Close

No. 9: Cartier

Parent Company: Richemont
Brand Value: $5.4 billion
Brand Sales: $3.3 billion

Currently with 32 boutiques in 18 cities across China, Cartier CEO Bernard Foras has said he aims to make China its No. 1 market in three years with at least 55 boutiques.

FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

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No. 8: Rolex

Parent Company: Rolex
Brand Value: $5.5 billion
Brand Sales: $3.4 billion

Rolex is the most profitable brand in watches. Sales are expected to be up 15% this year, fueled by sales in emerging markets led by China according to analyst Jon Cox of Kepler Capital Markets.

PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Close

No. 7: Chanel

Parent Company: Chanel
Brand Value: $5.6 billion
Brand Sales: $3.3 billion

Coco Chanel’s mantra: “Fashion fades, only style remains the same” is still the guiding force behind her brand. But what is equally important to Chanel’s appeal is its creative director, Karl Lagerfeld, one of the most recognizable men in fashion with his silver ponytail, dark sunglasses and black suit.

LIU JIN/AFP/Getty Images

Close

No. 6: Hermes

Parent Company: Hermes
Brand Value: $5.7 billion
Brand Sales: $2.5 billion

The infamous waiting list for the Birkin bag, which retails between $6,000 and $100,000, is history for the 173-year old company. The company now aims to grow by expanding its customer base. It opened its first men’s only store in New York in February with a made-to-measure program aimed at providing custom apparel.

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

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No. 5: Coach

Parent Company: Coach
Brand Value: $7.4 billion
Brand Sales: $3.2 billion

Coach’s strategy to cut prices last year–a move that resulted in it offering more than half of its products for under $300–paid off. Sales volume jumped and profits surged. The company is now focusing on middle-price-range products, and expanding its new pricing strategy in Europe.

CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images

Close

No. 4: Gucci

Parent Company: PPR
Brand Value: $8.2 billion
Brand Sales: $3.0 billion

With a new CEO at the helm last year, Gucci unveiled a brand strategy that included cutting production and multiple variations of the same style. It launched a new ad campaign promoting the brand’s heritage that featured Guccio Gucci describing his dream as an artist in Florence in 1921.

AP Photo/Joerg Sarbach

No. 3: Mercedes-Benz

Parent Company: Daimler AG
Brand Value: $18.8 billion
Brand Sales: $63.2 billion

While many automakers advertise price cuts, Mercedes emphasizes its company’s heritage: Its cars are the result of 100 years of German engineering. It is currently vying with BMW to be the biggest luxury auto brand in China and says it plans on outselling its German nemesis by 2011 with a number of cars designed exclusively for Chinese consumers.

AP Photo/Christophe Ena

No. 2: Louis Vuitton

Parent Company: LVMH
Brand Value: $19.0 billion
Brand Sales: $6.3 billion

In its 156 years, Louis Vuitton has held steadfast to a policy of zero discounting–a practice it says enriches the value of the brand. To remind its customers what they are paying for, the new brand campaign features artisans hand-finishing goods at a workshop table.

AP Photo/Grace Kassab

Close

No. 1: BMW

Parent Company: BMW
Brand Value: $19.9 billion
Brand Sales: $56.6 billion

BMW is gaining market share in China, the largest auto market in the world, by designing custom cars to meet the demands of Chinese consumers and tailoring its advertising to align with Chinese culture.

Few brands can sell luxury as a necessity and get away with it like Porsche. A recent ad for the new Porsche 911 reads: “…You strain to think of something else that has stayed this true to its ideals for 46 years. You come to the realization that, in the age of the superfluous and superficial, the unrooted and the unserious, the 911 is necessary. Very necessary. The Porsche 911. There is no substitute.”

Forbes’ Beyond the Balance Sheet department looks at the numbers behind the numbers–or ways of analyzing companies that are different from the usual metrics, such as book value and earnings. To identify the Platinum Brands among luxury goods, we looked at more than 30 leading brands in autos, retail, fashion and accessories to determine the world’s most valuable. We leaned on Jeffrey Parkhurst, managing director of business strategy at WPP ( WPPGY news people )-owned media agency Mindshare, to help value these brands.

The first step was to determine earnings before interest and taxes for each brand. Forbes averaged those earnings over the past three years and subtracted from earnings a charge of 8% of the brand’s capital employed, figuring a generic brand should be able to earn at least 8% on the capital employed.

Forbes applied the maximum corporate tax rate to that net earnings figure. Next, it allocated a percentage of those earnings to the brand based on the role that brands play in that industry. Brands are crucial when it comes to apparel and perfumes, but not so much, say, with airlines. Pricing and location are more important for them. To this net brand earning number, we applied the average price-to-earnings multiple over the past three years to arrive at the final brand value. For privately held outfits we applied an earnings multiple for a comparable company.

Beyond The Balance Sheet: Platinum Brands

pic

In Pictures
Featured

The companies that came out on top on our list of most valuable luxury brands fared reasonably well last year, one that was disastrous for many companies. Sales of Louis Vuitton, the marquee label of parent company LVMH, rose more than 10% in 2009 to $6.3 billion, despite the recession. Brand sales, which represent 75% of the fashion and leather goods segment of the company, had double-digit growth in the first quarter as well.

What helps set some of these brands apart? The makers of the world’s top luxury brands don’t apologize for the sky-high price tags attached to their products. LVMH’s Louis Vuitton, for one, has never discounted a single item, citing customer loyalty and product value as its reasons. That makes sense: Why would a customer pay full price for an item if they knew that in three months it might be had for 25% less?

Even when the top luxury companies introduce less expensive offerings, they often don’t advertise the price. When Mercedes-Benz introduced its C-Class, its most affordable sedan, it emphasized that it is a product of 100 years of German engineering, a key brand message. And most of the most valuable brands kept advertising during the recession: Louis Vuitton, for one, rolled out a celebrity-flecked campaign. In one print ad, dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov stands on a platform barefoot while photographer Annie Leibovitz watches him from the floor.

The makers of the world’s most valuable luxury brands know that a good portion of their future sales will come from emerging markets, especially China, where sales in the luxury goods market expected to increase 15% there this year, says Bain.

“With Asia being the growth market for luxury players, brands will tailor their product offerings to meet the needs of more diverse customer segments,” says Claudia D’Arpizio, Milan-based partner at Bain.

Research by Ritika Sinha



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Woman in China Buys the Most Expensive Dog in The World

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Tibetan Mastiff becomes world’s priciest dog: Chinese woman pays $600,000

Mastiff

A woman from Northern China has just taken delivery of what has reportedly become the most expensive dog in the world for which she paid 4 million yuan, or about $600,000. …

The millionairess has reportedly been searching for the perfect dog for years. This dog, which she spotted in Yushu made the grade. “Gold has a price,” she said, “But this Tibetan mastiff doesn’t.”

Upon its arrival in Xi’an airport, the 18-month-old Tibetan mastiff,Yangtze River Number Two was greeted by dog lovers waving welcome banners. According to reports, the dog’s owner, identified only as Mrs. Wang, arranged for a motorcade of 30 black Mercedes-Benz cars led by two sports utility vehicles to transport the canine to its new home in style. The dog’s welcome crowd was so large and lavish, that passersby gathered round thinking a human celebrity was in their midst.

In China, this ancient breed goes by nicknames such as “Miraculous Beast”, “Number One Dog” and “Antique Dog.” Buddha and Genghis Khan kept them as companions. Marco Polo wrote of seeing them in the Orient. They are fabled to play a huge part in maintaining ecological balance (both spiritually and physically) in their native habitat, the Tibetan Plateau, where sadly, they are now quite rare. They are reputed to be one of the oldest breeds still in existence and archaeological evidence suggests they served as guard dogs in China as early as 1000 B.C..

With fewer than 160 pure bred descendants of the original Tibetan mastiffs currently in existence, these dogs are certainly rare. …

Chinese dog-watchers are certainly a new phenomenon in a land where keeping dogs as pets was banned under the reign of Mao Zedong who described dog owners as time-wasters. Large dogs are still outlawed in Beijing where it is illegal to register a dog larger than 35 cms (13 inches). Dog ownership in general is reserved for the wealthier population in cities like Beijing, where the annual license fee can run as high as 1,000 yuan or ($150) – an astronomical sum for the city’s blue collar workers (textile workers’ salaries averaged averaged less than 20,000 yuan or $5,689 in 2008).


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