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For Luxury Buyers, a Rolls-Royce Showroom

Models pose beside a Rolls-Royce Wraith during the inauguration of its official dealership in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, June 9, 2014. Rolls-Royce Motor Cars announced Monday that it has joined with the Cambodian business partner HGB Group Co., Ltd. to open a showroom in the Cambodian capital next month. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
Rolls-Royce has come to Cambodia. The luxury car company opened a showroom in Phnom Penh on Monday, with models available beginning at $450,000.

The availability of the cars raises questions about wealth and inequality in a country that—despite an economic growth rate nearly 8 percent in recent years—still has a significant majority of people living in poverty.

Four separate models will be available in showrooms soon. Paul Harris, regional director for Rolls-Royce, said Cambodia’s strong economic growth brought the showroom, but the company has been selling cars to Cambodian customers since 2005.

Speaking at the inauguration of the dealership on Monday, Minister of Industry Cham Prasidh said the cars signaled the emergence of a “middle class” and of “entrepreneurs” who can afford luxury goods.

“There is room for Rolls-Royce to sell here, because there are many rich people in Cambodia,” he said.

In fact, around eight out of 10 Cambodians are living in poverty, many earning between $1 and $2. In Phnom Penh, the average family earns less than $500 per year, and nationwide, only about 4 percent of the population has a car.

Still, economic analyst Chan Sophal said he was not surprised to see a luxury car company open a showroom.

“They must see potential customers in Cambodia,” he said. “In any country, there must be a group of rich people. But we don’t know why or how they became rich.”