20111106-Wiki commonsGangzhou_Dadao_Motor made by _GEELY.JPG
Geely Dadao
China has the largest number of motor vehicles in the world as of 2022, with 307 million motor vehicles, excluding two-wheelers. In 2021, vehicle sales increased 3.8 percent and 26.28 million, industry data showed, ending a three-year decline. Total sales led the world for 13 consecutive years at that time. The future also looked bright:"Thanks to new-energy vehicles (NEVs) and the export market, the market share of Chinese auto brands reached 44 percent at home, nearing the best level in history," the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) said.[Source: Global Times, January 12, 2022]

In 2009 became the world's largest new car market. China surpassed the United States to become the world’s largest automobile market in 2009. About13.9 million vehicles were sold in China in 2009, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, a 45 percent increase from the previous year. By comparison 10.43 million cars and light trucks were sold in the United States in 2009. The increase was all the more remarkable as sales almost everywhere in the world slumped because of the global financial crisis.In 2011, a total of 80 million cars and commercial vehicles were built worldwide, with China accounting for 18.4 million of them. Vehicle sales in China totaled 23.5 million in 2014, almost a third more than in the United States. [Source: Wikipedia, Reuters]

Small cars account for nearly two thirds of all cars sold . Commercial vehicles make up a much larger percentage of vehicles sold than in the United States and Japan. In the 2000s, China’s best selling car was the M1, a 1,000cc to 1,300cc compact from domestic maker Chery Automobile Co. that sold for about $4,500 to $6,000. According to the Chinese Association of Automobile Manufacturers, top-selling cars in the nation are those with engine capacities less than 1,600cc and priced at about $8,000. Light commercial vehicles, called "bread vans" due to their loaf-like appearance, are especially popular in farming districts. Chinese consumers who make more than $8,000 per year reportedly buy cars at about the same level as their annual incomes.

China had 219 vehicles per 1,000 people, compared to 837 in the U.S. and 624 in Japan i Vehicles: total: Chinas: 307,000,000; United States: 272, 480,900; Bangladesh 620,000 (4 per 1,000 people). List includes cars, vans, buses and trucks; but doesn’t include motorcycles and other two-wheeled vehicles. If Chinese were to possess the number of cars per capita as Americans, then Chinese would own 800 million cars. The road, highways and parking lots needed to accommodate these vehicles would eat up land equivalent to all the land that China uses to produce rice. Perish the thought of what would happen to world’s energy supplies. [Source: Wikipedia Wikipedia ]

Gasoline price per liter in July 2022: $1.42 (compared to $1.28 in the United States, $1.27 in Sudan and $2.40in Norway. [Source:]

Websites and Sources on Automobiles in China : China Car Forum Automaker List ; Wikipedia article on China National Highways Wikipedia ; Map of China’s Highways ; Driving and Owning a Car: Expat Blog Report on Driving in China ; Driving in China Report ; Wikitravel Article Wikitravel; Karakoram Highway in China: Wikipedia article Wikipedia Joho the Map John the Map ; Photos Karakorum Highway Blog

Automobile Growth in China

In China in the early 2000s there was roughly one vehicle for 28 people, roughly the same rate as the United States in 1915. By contrast there are 1.8 in the United States and 1473 automobiles per person in Ethiopia. In 1995, there was one automobile per 522 people in China. As of 2008, there were about nine cars to 1,000 residents, compared to 450 in the United States.

The number of cars and light trucks sold in China was one-tenth of that in the United States in 2000. In 1990, only 6,000 passenger cars were sold and most of them went to government agencies, and high-ranking government officials and businessmen. Sales of cars began to take off in 2000 and reached the 1 million mark in 2002. Sales of cars has grown by 20 percent to 30 percent a year since 2005. China surpassed Japan to become the world’s second largest car market in 2006. Around 9.4 million cars were sold in 2008. Automobile sales increased 16 percent in May in 2008 despite the massive earthquake in Sichuan. Sales barely missed a beat during the economic crisis in 2008 and 2009. In 2009 car sales reached the 1 million a month mark. Car registration in Beijing increased to 4.8 million from 2.8 million between 2005 and 2010, with 700,000 new cars registered in 2010 year alone.

Uncrowded streets in the 1980s
The number civilian-owned cars and trucks grew from 5.5 million in 1990 to 214 million in 2011. As of 2004, only three household in 1,000 owned a car. This is not very many but just a few years earlier the figure was two households in 1,000. The number of people with driver’s licenses hit 100 million for the first time in 2003. In Beijing in the 1990s bicycles outnumbered cars by a large margin and traffic jams were largely unheard of. Now traffic jams are a fact of life and situation is expected to get worse before it gets better. As of 2007 three million cars were registered in Beijing and 1,000 new automobiles took to the streets every day. By contrast there were about 2 million vehicles registered in New York City at that time and Beijing car ownership was increasing at a rate of 15 percent a year while urban road growth was increasing only three percent.

Strong car growth in China culminated in a burst of sales in 2009 and 2010 as the government cut taxes on car sales to stimulate the economy during the global economic downturn. The expiration of tax incentives and subsidies, along with new restrictions on car purchases in Beijing, slowed sales, which had grown at a double-digit pace every year since 1999 - apart from in 2008. Sales that year, at the height of the global crisis, rose 6.7 per cent. Car sales in China soared in 2010 after the government cut sales taxes and offered subsidies to spur demand, but growth slowed once the incentives ended. "This data was what we expected,'' said Jia Xinguang, managing director of the China Automobile Dealers Association, attributing the slowdown mainly to the end of preferential policies for car purchases.

History of Chinese Cars

The number of models sold in China increased from six in the mid 1990s to 90 in the mid 2000s.. Foreign luxury cars and four-wheel-drive vehicles became popular among the rich in the 2000s. More Audi A6 and BMW 760Li were sold in China than anywhere else in the world. Rolls Royce and Bentley have dealerships in Beijing and Shanghai. Less well off Chinese bought compacts for driving around and vans or pick up trucks they could use to make money. Bureaucrats and party members drive around in cars the government tells them to buy.

The cheapest car on the market in China in the 1990s was the Changse. Retailing for $6,700 and nicknamed the breadbox, this tiny vehicle could reach speeds of 60 mph as long as there wasn't a headwind. "The Changhe has all the zip of a covered golf cart" wrote Steven Murfson in the Washington Post. "It looks like a minivan, only it is less than half the size of those usually sold in the United States. Construction quality appears to be shoddy, and the vehicles are relatively unstable." Other Chinese cars on the market at that time include the Lucky Star "Supermini," a three door model made by the firm Tint Dragonfly

The top selling automobile in China in 1995 were: 1) VW Santana; 2) Daihatsu Charade; 3) Jeep Cherokee. Santanas were the favored vehicle of Communist officials. After that prices dropped. A VW Santana sold for $21,000 in 2000 and cost $9,000 in 2005. At that time new Volkswagen compact sold for around $12,000. A new Japanese car cost around $20,000. A new Volvo went for $100,000. A top-of-the-line Audi 6, the favored car of the Communist elite sold for $200,000.

China’s best selling car in the late 2000s was the M1, a 1,000cc to 1,300cc compact from domestic maker Chery Automobile Co. that goes for about $4,500 to $6,000. According to the Chinese Association of Automobile Manufacturers, top-selling cars in the nation are those with engine capacities less than 1,600cc and priced at about $8,000. Light commercial vehicles, called "bread vans" due to their loaf-like appearance, are especially popular in farming districts. Chinese consumers who make more than $8,000 per year reportedly buy cars at about the same level as their annual incomes.The bestselling car in 2005 was the Charade, a subcompact produced by FAW. It is a Chinese version of a Japanese car licensed from Daihatsu.

Chinese Middle Class and Car Sales

As Chinese have become richer they have shown a great hunger to purchase cars. The transformation of Beijing and Shanghai from bicycle-dominated cities to car-dominated ones and the speed in which it has happened are proof of this. The middle class purchases vehicles in large numbers. They would buy more were it not for restrictions for reducing smog and traffic. For some Chinese a car is a sign of having made it in life. Cars are still way too expensive for most people. The increase in car ownership has given Chinese more freedom, undermined the control of the government and boosted the economy by helping industries that rely on cars such as steel makers. It has also caused traffic jams, pollution and road deaths. One of the lingering effects of SARS panic was that Chinese began avoiding public transportation and seeking more private space, something which automobile are ideal for. Sales of passenger cars boomed.

Peter Hessler wrote in National Geographic, “One evening I have dinner with Huang Xiaoqiang, his wife, Feng Xiaoqin, and their family, who used to own my favorite noodle restaurant. In 1998 Huang acquired his driver’s license and told me he hoped to buy a car someday, which seemed impossible with his limited family income. But tonight he picks me up at my hotel in a new black Chinese BYD sedan. Huang drives exactly two blocks to a restaurant, and then we drive exactly two more blocks to his family home. These journeys may be short, but they provide ample time for Huang to make full use of his dashboard DVD player. I ask him what his biggest dream is now. On the dashboard screen, girls in miniskirts bounce to a song called “The Smiling Eyes of Love.” “There’s nothing else I really need,” he says at last. “Having a car was my big dream. We already have the important things now.” [Source: Peter Hessler, National Geographic, March, 2013]

According to the Wall Street Journal: Data from the Ministry of Public Security show that 35 Chinese cities have more than one million automobiles as of 2015. Ten of those cities — including Beijing, Chengdu and Shenzhen – each have more than two million cars on the road. But while the number of China’s motor vehicles and drivers has each risen more than 20-fold since 1987, the country’s road capacity has increased only 3.4 times over the same period. [Source: Rose Yu, China Real Time, Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2015]

Pace of Automobile Growth in China Slows

While automobile sales soared in the 2000s there were times when things slowed down. In the mid 2000s cars sales started to drop and auto dealers had to cut prices and offer freebies and other incentives to get people to buy cars. Car salesmen that were selling cars on the spot faced showrooms empty of customers and spent their time making cold calls to stir up business. Dealership improved the feng shui of their showrooms. Most of the cars that were sold tended to be small cars with relatively small profit margins. By June 2012, there was glut of automobiles and prices were 1.2 percent lower than they were a year earlier.

According to traffic department statistics, at the end of 2011, China had 225 million motor vehicles, including 106 million cars, and more than 235 million licensed drivers. In January 2012, AP reported: “Vehicle sales in China rose a scant 2.5 per cent in 2011, the slowest growth in over a decade, as higher prices and traffic controls kept buyers out of showrooms. The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers that total vehicle sales rose to 18.5 million last year, up from 18 million in 2010, when sales rose 32 per cent. Passenger car sales, which exclude buses and heavy trucks, rose 5.2 per cent last year to 14.5 million vehicles, the industry group said. In contrast, US auto sales jumped 10 per cent to 12.8 million vehicles in 2011. [Source: AP, January 13, 2012]

China's market is bound to continue to expand, given the relatively low level of vehicle ownership among increasingly affluent families. But while some analysts are forecasting slightly better prospects for the future, most do not expect a return to the torrid growth of the past. The development of China's auto industry will be limited not by market demand or economic growth, "but by severe traffic congestion, air pollution and energy shortages,'' In recent years cars sales have been hurt by restrictions on lending, imposed by the government to cool down the economy; high gas prices, increasing traffic, lack of parking spaces, and the desire by buyers to wait for prices to drop lower.

Bart Demandt wrote in For years, analysts have predicted a slowdown of Chinese car sales. Halfway through 2015, the critics finally appeared to find reality on their side, when Chinese stock markets suddenly crashed and the economy stalled. Add to that a government crackdown on corruption and the recipe for a slowdown in car sales was ready. However, the central government stepped in and lowered the sales tax for vehicles with engines of 1.6 liters or smaller from 10 percent to 5 percent, starting in late 2015. That helped car sales peak recover and 2015 set yet another sales record of over 20 million passenger car sales. In 2016, the tax break continued and the market grew further, adding another 17 percent to 23.6 million sales.[Source:Bart Demandt,, January 21, 2017]

“60 percent of the growth came from domestic brands, as 9.8 million of the 23.6 million sales bore a badge from a Chinese brand, a record 41.4 percent of the total market. The previous record was 38.1 percent in 2015, which means local brands added 3.3 percentage points of share in a single year. Chinese brands increased their sales by 27.4 percent, more than double the growth rate of any of the other countries, as all saw their shares reduced. European brands took the biggest hit, losing 1.5 percentage points of market share to 5.3 million sales, with PSA Peugeot-Citroën as the biggest cause of concern. The American brands did best of the rest, losing just 0.4 percentage point of share to 2.96 million sales. Japanese brands sold 3.8 million cars in China in 2016 and South Korean brands sold 1.8 million units. All figures are for locally produced models only and exclude imports, which make up just 5 percent of the Chinese car market.

Bestselling Cars in China

Overall best-selling automobiles in China (as of December 2020) Automobile name ((Manufacturer) — Class — Years sold — Sales volume
1) Wuling Hongguang (Wuling Motors) — Compact MPV — 2010–2020 — 4,549,592
2) Volkswagen Lavida (SAIC Volkswagen) — Compact car — 2008–2020 — 3,713,165
3) Nissan Sylphy (Dongfeng Nissan) — Compact car — 2006–2020 — 3,278,419
4) Haval France (Great Wall Motors) — Compact crossover SUV — 2011–2020 — 3,235,714 [Source: Wikipedia]

5) Volkswagen Sagitar (FAW-Volkswagen) — Compact car — 2006–2020 — 2,638,588
6) Buick Excelle GT (SAIC-GM) — Compact car — 2010–2020 — 2,538,535
7) Toyota Corolla (FAW Toyota) — Compact car — 2007–2020 — 2,432,517
8) Volkswagen Bora (FAW-Volkswagen) — Compact car — 2001–2020 — 2,262,449
9) Volkswagen Jetta (FAW-Volkswagen) — Compact car — 1991–2020 (phased out in 2019) — 2,237,410
10) Volkswagen Santana (SAIC Volkswagen) — Compact car — 1983–2020 — 1,955,831

Bestselling Cars in China by Class

Minicompact cars
Best-selling minicompact cars (as of December 2020)
Automobile name (Manufacturer) — Years sold — Sales volume
1) Lechi (SAIC-GM-Wuling) — 2004-2017 (phased out in 2012) — 690,806
2) Riich M1 (Chery) — 2009-2014 (phased out in 2013) — 492,749
3) Jiangnan TT (Zotye Auto) — 2007-2018 (phased out in 2010) — 439,591
4) Changhe Beidouxing (Changhe) — 2004–2020 — 333,770
5) Chery QQ3 (Chery) — 2004-2020 (phased out in 2005) — 320,899 [Source: Wikipedia]

Subcompact cars
Best-selling subcompact cars in China (as of December 2020)
Automobile name (Manufacturer) — Years sold — Sales volume
1) Chevrolet Sail SAIC-GM) — 2004–2020 (phased out in 2019) — 1,261,458
2) Volkswagen Polo (SAIC Volkswagen) — 2004–2020 (phased out in 2019) — 1,230,880
3) Hyundai Reina (Beijing Hyundai) — 2010–2020 — 1,130,462
4) Kia K2 (Dongfeng Yueda Kia) — 2011–2020 — 833,259
5) Honda Fit (Guangqi Honda) — 2004–2020 — 787,565

Compact cars Best-selling compact cars in China (as of December 2020)
Automobile name (Manufacturer) — Years sold — Sales volume
1) Volkswagen Lavida (SAIC Volkswagen) — 2008–2020 — 3,713,165
2) Nissan Sylphy (Dongfeng Nissan) — 2006–2020 — 3,278,419
3) Volkswagen Sagitar (FAW-Volkswagen) — 2006–2020 — 2,638,588
4) Buick Excelle GT (SAIC-GM) — 2010–2020 — 2,538,535
5) Toyota Corolla (FAW Toyota) — 2007–2020 — 2,432,517

Mid-size car Best-selling mid-size cars in China (as of December 2020)
Automobile name (Manufacturer) — Years sold — Sales volume
1) Volkswagen Passat — Germany Volkswagen — ChinaGermany SAIC Volkswagen — 2011–2020 — 1,709,640
2) Volkswagen Magotan — Germany Volkswagen — ChinaGermany FAW-Volkswagen — 2007–2020 — 1,668,860
3) Honda Accord — Japan Honda — ChinaJapan Guangqi Honda — 1999–2020 — 1,389,215
4) Toyota Camry — Japan Toyota — ChinaJapan GAC Toyota — 2006–2020 — 1,324,748
5) BMW 3 Series — Germany BMW — ChinaGermany BMW Brilliance — 2004–2020 — 1,202,040

Full-size car
Best-selling full-size cars in China (as of December 2020)
Automobile name (Manufacturer) — Years sold — Sales volume
1) Audi A6L (FAW-Volkswagen) — 2005–2020 — 1,328,614
2) BMW 5 Series (BMW Brilliance) — 2004–2020 — 1,247,294
3) Mercedes-Benz E-Class (Beijing Benz) — 2005–2020 — 809,800
4) Cadillac XTS (SAIC-GM) — 2013–2020 — 343,271
5) Toyota Crown (FAW Toyota) — 2005–2020 (phased out in 2020) — 205,501

MPV (multi purpose vehicle)
Best-selling multi purpose vehicles in China (as of December 2020)
Automobile name — Brand — Manufacturer — Years sold — Sales volume
1) Wuling Hongguang (SAIC-GM-Wuling) — 2010–2020 — 4,549,592
2) Wuling Sunshine (SAIC-GM-Wuling) — 2002–2020 — 1,936,235
3) Baojun 730 (SAIC-GM-Wuling) — 2014–2020 — 1,336,749
4) Wuling Rongguang V (SAIC-GM-Wuling) — 2015–2020 — 989,961
5) Buick GL8 (SAIC-GM) — 2000–2020 — 967,078

SUV (sport utility vehicle)
Best-selling sport utility vehicles in China (as of December 2020)
Automobile name (Manufacturer) — Years sold — Sales volume
1) Haval H6 (Great Wall Motors) — 2011–2020 — 3,235,714
2) Honda CR-V (Dongfeng Honda) — 2004–2020 — 1,672,419
3) Volkswagen Tiguan (SAIC Volkswagen) — 2009-2020 (phased out in 2018) — 1,327,741
4) Nissan X-Trail (Dongfeng Nissan) — 2008–2020 — 1,274,857
5) Trumpchi GS4 (GAC Group) — 2015–2020 — 1,264,578

Big and Expensive Cars in China

20111106-Wiki commonsChina_Post_Offi.jpg
Post Office vehicle
Big cars sell surprisingly well in China. the dream of many people, even ones without a lot of money, is to have a chauffeur-driven car with extra room in the back seat. That is why even large cars in China are a foot longer than their counterparts in the United States. Another reason big cars sell well is the drive to embrace the suburb dream of a big house and big car.

In the late 2000s, China was the No. 1 market for Rolls Royce. The price of the most popular Rolls Royce model sold in China is $397,000. Buicks are popular among the Chinese elite. Both Sun Yat-sen, father of the modern Chinese state, and Zhou Enlai, respected Communist leader, favored classic black Buicks. At a dealership for luxury cars, a salesmen said, “A small car is for people with money problems or if they want to give their wives daughters or girlfriends to go buy food.”

In the mid 2000s, a Hummer sold for $220,000 in China, including hefty shipping and import fees from the United States. Owners include businessmen, coal mine owners and the wives and girlfriends of businessmen, coal mine owners. A owner of a Hummer and a graphic design company in Shanghai told the Washington Post, “In China, size matters. People want to have a car that shows off their status in society. Noone wants to buy small.” In certain quarters, SUVs sell well eve when gas prices are at all time highs.

The Qiantu K50 has been dubbed as China’s first supercar — and its an electric one at that.. According to Boldride: “it actually looks pretty good on display at the Shanghai Auto Show. The front end is modern and sophisticated, the side profile is unique but nonetheless appealing, and a big wing on the back lays claim to its sporty character. Power comes from an electric motor producing 408 horsepower, and 0-62 mph is estimated in just 5.0 seconds. Power goes straight to the rear wheels, there’s carbon fiber aplenty, and on a single charge, the K50 will last up to 124 miles (200 km). It actually sounds pretty promising, and with a starting price of $113,000, it’s reasonably priced. Though, considering it does come from China, we’ll have to wait and see if those claims actually hold true in the real world. [Source: Jeff Perez, Boldride, April 22, 2015]

Red Flag Limo

No car conjures up the Mao era qiote like the Red Flag limo. Associated Press reported: “The massive frame, bug-eyed headlights, huge retro front grille and scarlet glass hood ornament can mean only one thing: China's big and brash Red Flag limousine is back. The giant homegrown sedans were once among the most distinctive icons of the People's Republic. Chairman Mao Zedong perched in the back of one to inspect Red Guards in the 1960s. President Richard Nixon rode through Beijing in one during his breakthrough 1972 visit. Bob Hope rode in one too, and was mysteriously told that the trunk was off-limits. [Source: Associated Press, July 15, 2013]

“The Red Flag disappeared in the 1980s, replaced by humbler joint efforts with foreign partners that produced boxy Lincoln copies and rebranded black Audis. Now Beijing is reviving the brand to its former glory as a rolling chrome-and-steel embodiment of national pride and ambition.” But since spring of 2013, the newly designed L7 model has conveyed dignitaries including the French and South Korean presidents in motorcades from Beijing's airport.

The L7 is a 6-meter (20-foot) dreadnought of an automobile, boasting a mammoth 12-cylinder engine and roughly resembling an oversized Bentley Flying Spur. Foreign dignitaries and officials above the rank of minister get the L7, while top-level Chinese officials are chauffeured in an even bigger version, the leviathan L9, which reportedly costs about $800,000 and looks like the kind of car rock stars might drive into swimming pools. Almost 40 centimeters (15 inches) longer than the L7, the L9 comes with an armored chassis, rear-opening "suicide doors" and an optional sun roof from which Chinese leaders emerge when reviewing troops.Ministerial-level officials are assigned the much more modest H7, which starts at around $50,000.

“The re-emergence of the Red Flag, better known by its Chinese name, Hongqi (Hong Qi hong-CHEE), coincides with newly installed President Xi Jinping's promotion of the "China Dream." One of China's top three automakers, FAW produces vehicles from buses to SUVs, but the Red Flag has always been its flagship brand.

“The Red Flag was hatched in a tossed-off comment by Chairman Mao. Arriving in a Russian limousine at a meeting of the Politburo in 1956, Mao questioned out loud when he would travel "in one of our own sedans." That led to a prototype in 1958. Production began in earnest in 1959. For more than two decades, FAW churned out Red Flags in a variety of sizes and styles. In 1965 it introduced Mao's CA770, which featured a luxury interior and three rows of seating. Production ended in 1981 under then-leader Deng Xiaoping's drive to reduce waste and revive the moribund economy through his policy of reform and opening.In the years that followed, no less than three attempts were made to revive the brand through hook-ups with foreign brands, resulting in such combinations as the CA7465 C8, based on a second-generation Lincoln Town Car, as well as the rebranded Audi 100.

The original Red Flag was s modeled after the 1948 Packard car and looked like the cars seen in old gangster movies. Mao’s car was a 10-meter-long, six-door stretch Red Flag stretch limousine. It was produced at the First Automobile Works in Jilin Province and was delivered just weeks before Mao died. Mao was the only one ever to be driven around in it. Large enough to hold 40 schoolchildren, the limousine was equipped with a refrigerator, color television, telephone, desk and a double sofa, one of which could be converted into a double bed.

Hongqi (Red Flag) L5 — China's Most Expensive Car

The Hongqi (Red Flag) L5, has been billed as the most expensive Chinese car, selling for around $760,000. According to Forbes: “The Hongqi L5 is aimed at billionaire businessmen and super stars who want to show off their being-Chinese credentials. More than any other local brand Hongqi is closely connected with China as a country, and many Hongqi owners are sincerely proud of that. [Source: Tycho De Feijter, Forbes, May 26, 2016]

“The Hongqi L5 is part of the Hongqi L-Series. Hongqi L-Series including the gigantic Hongqi L9 parade car which debuted in 2009, followed by the Hongqi L7 in 2012 and finally by the Hongqi L5 in 2013.. There are three variants of the L5: one for the government, a parade car, and the civilian version. The Hongqi L5 is a giant car; 5.55 meters long, just over two meters wide, 1.5 meters high, and with a wheelbase of 3.4 meters. To put that into perspective: the current Mercedes-Maybach S600 is 5.2 meters long. The L5 is also very heavy, even in this non-armored civilian form. It weighs an incredible 3150 kilo, compared with “just” 2390 kilo for the Mercedes.

“The engine that has to move all those kilos is a 6.0 liter V12. Sadly it isn’t very strong. Output is 408 horsepower and 550 Newton meter. Gearbox is a six-speed automatic sending power to all four wheels. Hongqi does not specify top speed and acceleration, likely because it isn’t very fast. Fuel consumption is a mystery as well but bet it drinks a lot. Happily, the fuel tank has a capacity of 105 liter.

“The interior is a work of art rose wood panels and cream white leather. The centrally mounted instrument panel is fully digital and measures 15.3 inches. The lower 8-inch touch screen controls the infotainment and various other functions inducing the air conditioning and satellite navigation. The inner rim of the steering wheel is for the horn. The secret: you have to pull the rim towards you, instead of pushing it away. The system is a nod to the past again; it was just like that on the CA770. The logo in the middle of the steering wheel is a golden sunflower. In Chinese symbolism the sunflower stands for long life and good luck. Hongqi has been using the symbol for a very long time. There are also small sunflower logos in the center of the wheels.

“The rear compartment has all the luxuries a high end Hongqi should have, including 1.1 meters of leg room, beige carpets, and a rear-seat entertainment system with television and a Bose sound system. Interestingly, Hongqi said the L5 is also equipped with a 6-disc CD changer, and that is a real rarity on modern cars!

“A massive rear end with an endless trunk. Design of the taillights is taken from the shape of traditional Chinese lanterns. Chrome bars on each side of the license plate area are again inspired by the CA770. The characters above the license plate write Hongqi, supposedly in Mao’s handwriting.

“The imposing front with the the red flag hood ornament on the hood. Design of the heavily chromed grille is a nod to traditional Chinese hand fans and the ultra retro lights are very similar to those on the CA770.

Car Brand Stereotypes in China

Andrew Jacobs and Adam Century wrote in the New York Times: “Cars in the United States tend to come fully equipped with stereotypes. Ford Crown Victoria: law enforcement professional. Toyota Prius: upscale yuppie environmentalist. Hummer: gas-guzzling egotist. In China, where the market for imported passenger cars dates back only about three decades, an entirely alternate set of stereotypes is taking root — and the stakes have never been higher for foreign carmakers. [Source: Andrew Jacobs and Adam Century, New York Times November 14, 2011]

Take, for example, Mercedes-Benz, a brand that in much of the world suggests moneyed respectability. In China, many people think Mercedes-Benz is the domain of the retiree. The Buick, long associated in the United States with drivers who have a soft spot for the early-bird special, is by contrast one of the hottest luxury cars in China.

The lower rungs of the Chinese market are still dominated by domestic brands like Chery, whose name and numerous models suggest more than a passing resemblance to Chevy. The affluent, however, are flocking to an increasingly diverse array of foreign luxury offerings. The rapid market expansion has presented some foreign carmakers with a chance for brand reinvention, while posing public relations challenges to others. “Because the market is so young, brand perceptions and a car’s face—“an idiom meaning prestige or repute” — are both critical,” said Mr. Zhang, pointing out that 80 percent of car purchases are made by first-time buyers.

On Sina Weibo, the country’s most popular microblogging service, a recent posting tried to sum up the car clichés. “A gathering of Mercedes indicates a get-together for old folks,” the writer said. “A group of BMWs means young nouveaux riches are about to run someone over and have a party; several Audis, and you know it’s a government meeting.”

Audi A6, the Care of Choice of Chinese Bureaucrats

Andrew Jacobs and Adam Century wrote in the New York Times: No vehicle in China has developed as ironclad a reputation as the Audi A6, the semiofficial choice of Chinese bureaucrats. From the country’s southern reaches to its northern capital, the A6's slick frame and invariably tinted windows exude an aura of state privilege, authority and, to many ordinary citizens, a whiff of corruption. “Audi is still the de facto car for government officials,” said Wang Zhi, a Beijing taxi driver who has been plying the capital’s gridlocked streets for 18 years. “It’s always best to yield to an Audi — you never know who you’re messing with, but chances are it’s someone self-important.” [Source: Andrew Jacobs and Adam Century, New York Times November 14, 2011]

Audi’s party technocrat associations are a result partly of the car’s early market entry and its longstanding place on the government’s coveted purchasing list. Audi, the German automaker, gained access to the Chinese market in 1988 when its owner, Volkswagen, struck a joint venture with Yiqi, a Chinese carmaker. By contrast, BMW’s first domestic factory opened in 2003, giving Audi 15 years to establish itself as the premier vehicle for China’s elite.

This early advantage has helped Audi to dominate China’s lucrative government-car market, with 20 percent of its China revenue in 2009 drawn directly from government sales. Each year, the Procurement Center of the Central People’s Government releases a list of the cars and models acceptable for government purchase. While the A6 has long been a mainstay on the list, which had 38 brands in 2010, BMW made the cut only in 2009.

“When people see government officials in BMWs, they automatically suspect corruption or malfeasance — but Audis are to be expected,” said Jessica Wu, a public relations professional with almost a decade of experience in the Chinese car industry. A basic model Audi A6 costs 355,000 renminbi, or $56,000, while the BMW 5 series Li costs about 428,000 renminbi, or $67,520. Such market positioning has brought significant financial results for Audi — in 2010, the company sold 227,938 vehicles in China, more than double the number in the United States.

BMW’s and Buick’s Reputation in China

Andrew Jacobs and Adam Century wrote in the New York Times: The Munich-based automaker BMW, on the other hand, has found itself in a contrary position. Since entering the Chinese market, BMW has acquired a reputation as a vehicle for the arrogant and the rash, making it largely off-limits to wealthy officials who prefer a low-key public image.

Part of this stereotype is rooted in a 2003 incident in which a young female driver in the northeastern city of Harbin intentionally ran over and killed an impoverished man who had accidentally dented her BMW X5. Despite the transparent nature of the case — a clear motive and numerous eyewitnesses — the case was settled out of court for $11,000. The incident was seen as driving a wedge between China’s rich and poor, damaging BMW’s nascent image. [Source: Andrew Jacobs and Adam Century, New York Times November 14, 2011]

More recently, a driver in a BMW M6 struck and killed a pedestrian in May during an illegal street race in the city of Nanjing, setting off a public outcry. “If it hadn’t been a BMW, I don’t think it would have been as big of a deal,” said a young man who had taken part in the race and spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was awaiting trial. “Had it been all Toyotas, Mitsubishis or even Audis, I don’t think it would have provoked as dire a reaction.” Despite such public relations travails, BMW has posted strong sales in China, selling 121,614 units in the first two quarters of 2011, or 27 percent of the company’s total sales during that period.

The American carmaker General Motors has found the Chinese market to be a life-saving opportunity for the reinvention of the Buick brand. Since 2005, when Bob Lutz, the vice chairman of G.M., famously declared Buick a “damaged brand,” America’s oldest surviving automobile make has successfully positioned itself in China as a top-tier luxury carmaker.

Largely the result of effective marketing and remodeling, China’s romance with the Buick also has historical roots. The last Chinese emperor, Pu Yi, was the proud owner of two Buicks, as was the country’s first provisional president, Dr. Sun Yat-sen. The black Buick 8 driven by a onetime premier, Zhou Enlai, is still displayed at his former residence in Shanghai, now a museum.

In 2010, Buick sold over 550,000 cars in China, more than triple its sales in the United States. “We joke that our market revived Buick from the dead — it’s only partly a joke,” said Liu Wen, a reporter for China Auto News.

Automobiles and the Environment in China

China has tougher fuel-efficiency standard than the United States. A 12 percent tax has been imposed on gas guzzlers; reductions have been offered for cars with small engines. The moves have been prompted by high oil prices and energy shortages.

Eco-friendly cars already in operation include the Habo No.1, a Volkswagen that employs rocket technology, runs on hydrogen peroxide, and emits only water. There are also hybrids and a wide variety of other vehicles with electric engines and fuels cells.

China already has fuel cell buses and taxis in operations in Shanghai produced by Sheng-Li High Tech Co., a firm founded by a Clemson-University-trained engineer named Hu Liqing. Another company, Fuyuan Centru Fuel Cell, produces membranes for fuel cells — the most expensive part of a fuel cell — for Dupont which dominates the market for these components.

Shanghai has plans to have 1,000 fuel cell cars on the roads by 2010 and 10,000 by 2015. There is a planned community near Shanghai, where there is plan to have all the vehicles run on electric power. See Green Olympics, 2008 Olympics, Sports

See Buses

China's Efforts to Reduce Car Sales and Encourage Environmentally-Friendly Transport

Rising concern about the impact on traffic, the environment and fuel prices has prompted the government to promote energy-efficient vehicles and public transport. Beijing has sharply restricted issuance of new vehicle registrations, handed out rebates to millions of buyers of fuel-efficient cars and is doubling the length of its subway system with a US$14.8 billion investment. High-speed rail networks are being rolled out nationwide, most recently from the capital to Shanghai.[Source: Keith Bradsher, New York Times September 4, 2011]

Keith Bradsher wrote in the New York Times: A succession of government officials at a conference in called for China’s automakers to shift their focus from making ever more cars and toward producing more fuel-efficient and more advanced models, including gasoline-electric hybrids and all-electric cars. “The government must take the leading role in controlling unrealistic growth of the auto industry, Jiang Kejun, the influential director of the Energy Research Institute at the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s top economic planning agency, said Sunday during a speech at the conference. Lu Shize, director of air pollution control at the Ministry of Environmental Protection, echoed Mr. Jiang, saying that “for the auto industry to develop, we should not try to sell more, but to improve the units sold.”

The government officials did not say how they would restrict growth. But growth has already slowed partly because of limits on the number of new cars that can be registered each month in Beijing, and mostly because government incentives expired at the start of 2011. Those incentives were subsidies for rural buyers and a two-year reduction in the sales tax on new family vehicles. Mr. Jiang said that he expected other cities to do so. “Beijing is a very typical city from which other cities may learn,” he said. Zhao Hang, the president of the China Automotive Technology and Research Center, a government-affiliated complex of laboratories based here that organized the conference and that collaborates closely with automakers, expressed misgivings about further limits on car registrations. He said that the limits could discourage the replacement of older cars. China already has national and local subsidies of 123,000 renminbi, or $19,300, for each all-electric car, but virtually none are sold.

China has moved rapidly to adopt Western standards for automotive pollution control, gas mileage and safety. Xiang Dihai, the director of economic construction at the Finance Ministry, said told the New York Times said that China would proceed with plans to impose stricter fuel-economy standards by 2015, following recent moves by the United States, Japan and the European Union to require better gas mileage. Cars just a few years old may pollute more, burn more gasoline and fare extremely badly in crashes.

In September 2011, Reuters reported: Beijing plans to impose congestion fees on autos using certain roads and to encourage residents to buy alternative-energy cars in a drive to ease chronic traffic jams and cut pollution, Chinese media reported. Officials hope the fees will lead more residents to use public transport. The reports did not give details of tolls that would be imposed or how those fees would be collected. Beijing's plan will provide unspecified incentives to buy so-called new-energy cars, including electric vehicles. It pledged to upgrade equipment at electric-vehicle charging stations and build more of them, Xinhua said. Beijing has also increased parking fees, built parallel roads, widened certain intersections and expanded its subway system, all to try to relieve traffic congestion. [Source: Reuters, September 2, 2011]

Efforts to Slow Automobile Sales in China

Keith Bradsher wrote in the New York Times, "The municipal government of Beijing, China’s largest single market with 4 percent of sales last year, stunned the industry in December 2010 by imposing stringent limits on the number of new-car registrations each month, effectively imposing a decline in sales of close to 70 percent. The move only slowed the pace of increased congestion, while angering tens of thousands of hopeful car owners left unable to buy a vehicle. Industry executives argued that this was purely a response to severe traffic jams in Beijing and lobbied for the central government not to let other cities take the same course. [Source: Keith Bradsher, New York Times September 4, 2011, , December 29, 2010]

In December 2010, the finance ministry announced that it would restore the sales tax on cars with small-displacement engines to 10 percent, its level before the global downturn. (The tax had been 5 percent in 2009 and 7.5 percent this year; through the downturn, the tax has remained as high as 40 percent for sport utility vehicles and sports cars with the most powerful engines.)

Bradsher wrote, "The biggest question in the car industry is whether more cities will follow Beijing’s example and impose restrictions on car registrations. Shanghai has restricted registrations since 1994 to prevent its ancient streets from becoming overwhelmed. As a result, it has one-third as many registered vehicles as Beijing, even though the populations of the two cities are similar. Shanghai is unusual because its historic city center has many narrow old streets. But with the exception of Guiyang in southern China, most Chinese cities have been awaiting signals from Beijing on whether to follow suit.

Image Sources: 1) University of Washington; 2, 9, 10); Wiki Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated July 2022

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of country or topic discussed in the article. This constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you are the copyright owner and would like this content removed from, please contact me.