Saturday, October 17, 2015

Sunday Globe Special: Hot Wheels

(Warning: driving forward into this post may make angry)

"For some foreign students, a driving passion for luxury" by Laura Krantz Globe Staff  October 10, 2015

It’s a Monday morning at Boston University, and the Porsches start to pull up. Next, along Commonwealth Avenue, come the Maseratis, Range Rovers, a BMW M6, and a Lamborghini Aventador.

The drivers aren’t foreign dignitaries or business titans arriving for a meeting. The flashy sports cars — with prices as high as $379,000 for the Lamborghini — are almost without exception driven by international college students on their way to class.

The undergraduates, some as young as 18, drive in from the Back Bay, Cambridge, and Allston, areas so dense that few college students own cars. Tucked amid beat-up Hondas and Toyotas, the exotic wheels are so prized that students have formed their own car club, Fantastic Rush Rally.

Members cruise to New York and New Hampshire on the weekends and signal their club membership with a stuffed turtle on their dashboards.


These luxury vehicles, which adorn many Boston college campuses, are perhaps the most visible sign of the enormous wealth that pours into the city each year from the wallets of international students. Nearly one-third of the foreign students are from China, where an economic boom has created a new class of multimillionaires.

Before the current collapsing, of course.


“Boston may never be able to host the Super Bowl, but we have something that’s even better than that, a Super Bowl of education spending,” bureau president Patrick Moscaritolo said. “And it happens year after year after year.”

Don't feel bad; they will never get the Olympics, either.

Car dealers routinely watch international students drive off the lot in brand-new Audi R8s, or BMW 650is. “We see more Asian students, actually, coming to the dealership and buying cars, and they mostly pay cash and their parents wire the money,” said Milad Farahani, owner of Boston Foreign Motor in Allston.

Realtors say they have also been stunned by the number of foreign families paying cash for condos that cost $1 million or more in Downtown Crossing, Cambridge, and Back Bay. Some have purchased units in the not-yet-complete Millennium Tower condominiums in Downtown Crossing, realtors said.

And $600 for the school ain't chump change!!!

Car dealers said they’ve sold to foreign students for decades, but Asian buyers recently overtook those from the Middle East. Dealers said students sometimes know more than they do about the cars.

“They definitely want the newest, the most cutting-edge technology, the most cutting-edge design,” said Melissa Steffy, general manager of the Herb Chambers BMW in Allston.

Car culture among international students thrives in Boston. The Fantastic Rush Rally club shies away from publicity that might feed negative stereotypes about wealthy foreign students. But other students can’t help but notice the gleaming chariots.

“There’s whole gangs of them.”


Not all college students are fans.


International students have picked up on that tinge of resentment. Asked about their cars by a reporter, students were shy about why they like them.

The number of international students in Boston has been growing for the past decade, with a spike in recent years.

India ranks second.

To be sure, not every international student can afford luxuries.

Yeah, to be sure!

Like their American counterparts, many scrape together savings, work part-time, and live far from campus to save on rent.

And then they go back to the slum.

Ulya Aviral, a graduate student from Turkey who attends Emerson College, lives in Brighton and shares an apartment with another student, paying $825 in rent. She works two jobs and spends an hour each way commuting to class on the MBTA.

“It was really hard for me to find an apartment,” she said.

Aviral lives about 3 miles down Commonwealth Avenue from where the luxury cars park at BU. One of them, a $90,000 blue Maserati, is driven by Alan Sun, 21, a senior from China who lives in Allston.

“I like Maserati, so I bought this car,” Sun said, simply.

When he graduates, he plans to sell it.


Related: House Hunting in Boston

Time to head home.