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The AutoGuide News Blog is your source for breaking stories from the auto industry. Delivering news immediately, the AutoGuide Blog is constantly updated with the latest information, photos and video from manufacturers, auto shows, the aftermarket and professional racing.
Judging from the series of releases at the Beijing Auto Show, China is far and away the most important market for global automakers. A trend first started by high-end luxury brands, Jeep is hopping on the bandwagon by introducing the Jeep Wrangler Dragon design concept, a China-market-exclusive vehicle that features a “dragon design” theme to commemorate the Chinese calendar’s Year of the Dragon.
“The Jeep brand is committed to China and therefore we must design and tailor our vehicles to the specific tastes and preferences of chinese consumers,” said Jeep Brand CEO and COO for Asia, Mike Manley.
Black and yellow prancing pony badges have been available in the Chinese car market for 20 years and Ferrari is celebrating the anniversary.
To mark its growing success in the country, the automaker announced the inauguration of a permanent brand exhibition at the Italia Center of the Shanghai World Expo Park. Covering almost two square miles, it designed five specific themes to showcase at the venue.
Between the dedicated Ferrari in China, green technology, product, design, and racing wings, visitors will not only get to see current and past ferrari models, but will also get to admire a rich selection of images and videos made for the exhibition.
Automakers benefited greatly from China’s rapid growth over the past decade. Chinese appetite for automobiles has been a critical income for manufacturers around the world. Even General Motors sold more vehicles in China than in the United States.
However, China’s economy seems to be cooling. According to LMC Automotive, 2012 vehicle sales will only increase by 9.2 percent, less than half of last year’s growth. Compounding the issue, the Chinese government intends to curb the growth of foreign automakers in order to allow its domestic industry to thrive. When these new policies are in place, those automakers without assembly plants within China, such as Chrysler, may be shut out.
Something the global economy has experienced multiple times, rapid economic growth is often followed by a bubble burst. According to analysts, the Chinese market bubble may pop in just three years. Time will tell which automaker is best prepared for the inevitable market shift.
If a special vehicles automaker wanted to build a bespoke automobile specifically for China’s wealthiest, it would adorn the automobile with every imaginable luxury appointment and would dedicate its masterpiece after the Year of the Dragon.
In Chinese culture, the dragon represents power, prosperity, and good fortune. Earlier this year, Rolls Royce took this opportunity to offer the elite ‘Year of the Dragon’ Phantom for $1.2 million. Aston Martin also celebrated Chinese New Year with special “Dragon88″ offerings for its Vantage S, Virage, and DBS models, exclusively for the Chinese Market.
Dartz decided to follow suit by introducing a Dragon of its own. The Latvian premium armored vehicle company announced 12 Dartz Prombron Black Dragon edition SUVs for a cosmic sum of $7 million dollars each. What should one expect to receive from a vehicle that’s priced to compete with a 4 bedroom luxury apartment in New York City?
The Dartz Prombron Black Dragon not only receives all the standard armor specifications, but also features a golden Dartz logo encrusted with diamonds and rubies as well as extravagant wheels with inlaid gold machine-gun bullets and dragon designs. For its interior, passengers will enjoy a 42-inch TV, an electrochromic roof, and piano-black flooring. Finally, the special Prombron offers a wheelbase stretched by approximately another two feet. Surprisingly, the $7 million price tag does not entail a dragon penis upholstery package, mythical creatures are harder to find than the whale penis used in previous Prombrons.
Chassis and powertrain comes from GM, with a choice of either a diesel or gasoline V8.
GALLERY: Dartz Prombon Black Dragon
Check out the video of the ridiculous rolling luxury bank vault below:
According to a statement by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM), China’s monthly sales of passenger-vehicles suffered its steepest decline in more than seven years due to a Lunar New Year holiday season hiatus that deprived dealers of a week’s worth of sales. Figures indicated that sales fell to 1.16 million units in January, a 24 percent decrease from the year before. According to five analysts from Bloomberg News, sales were projected to drop 18 percent.
Great Wall Securities Co. analyst Ran Fei said, “Even though the actual holidays were five working days, some dealerships took the opportunity to close their stores for a longer time. The numbers are disappointing.” Compounding the auto sales slump in the Chinese market, the Chinese government also estimated that holiday sales at the nation’s main retailers and restaurants rose at their slowest pace since the 2009 financial crisis.
Are these signs an indication that the world’s largest and fastest growing automotive market is showing economic resistance? Despite these statistics, Ran Fei insists that “Car demand is stable. There’s no indication of any changes on that front.” China’s Passenger Car Association also believes that the Chinese economy is fundamentally sound and interprets the auto sales number as a mere holiday season distortion. The Passenger Car Association expects a 30 percent rise in sales for February.
Huatai Securities Co. analyst Chen Liang adds, “Demand is still there and consumers in the smaller, less developed cities will still have a growing need for cars. These numbers don’t change my outlook for the year.”
In January, GM reported an 8 percent decline in China sales, its first Chinese sales decline in six months. Chevrolet sales suffered a 20 percent hit to 54,399 units. According to Ford, its China sales fell a staggering 42 percent last month. Bucking the trend, Luxury German brands BMW and Audi both posted higher sales, enjoying a 30 percent and 23 percent gain respectively.
IHS Automotive Shanghai analyst Namrita Chow provided this explanation, “Prior to the Chinese New Year, Chinese consumers who are looking to enhance their prestige and status symbol have chosen high-end luxury brands.”
BMW is cashing in on the chauffeur craze in China by offering a stretched version of the 3-Series exclusively to Chinese customers.
The longer wheelbase sedan will be sold as a 335Li, and will offer more legroom to Chinese consumers who want to be driven around but can’t afford a legitimate chauffeur car like Bentley or Rolls-Royce.
It might sound ridiculous that the mild-mannered 3-Series would merit a hired driver, but Audi has actually been advancing Chinese sales by offering the A6L and A4L sedans with “L” signifying the longer version.
The 335Li fits between the two Audi cars in terms of rear-seat legroom according to China Car Times. Chinese customers will be able to buy the car later this year, though it won’t be offered anywhere else in the world. That would have meant a lot of extra work on BMW’s part until recently. The German automaker will manufacture their Chinese 3-Series cars in partnership with Brilliance, a company they have worked with on several projects in the past.
[Source: China Car Times]
There used to be a time when any car company hoping to succeed in business would open up shop in North America. While North America remains one of the key markets for car companies, the new focus is on emerging markets, with China as the number one choice.
Group Lotus is the latest to enter the Chinese market, with a showroom in the trendy Chaoyang district of Beijing. While this is the first official dealership for Lotus in China, a further 10 showrooms are expected to open in this country in 2012.
At the launch, many Group Lotus execs such as Clive Chapman (son of the late Colin Chapman, founder of the company) and Dany Bahar (Group Lotus CEO) were present, along with President and CEO of Lotus China, Li-Chen Zhang.
On this occasion, Zhang said: “This is the first showroom that the Lotus brand has set-up in China since entering the Chinese market on June 15 and it’s a very proud day for all of us who believe very strongly in the brand. We truly believe the Chinese market will completely embrace the Lotus philosophy of performance through lightweight and innovation through clever design. We sold around 300 units before we even opened the showroom so the initial interest and orders put forward indicate that our faith in the brand is well placed.”
At launch, Lotus will be selling six models in China, namely the Elise R, Elise SC, Evora, Evora IPS, Exige S240 and Exige S260. The Evora GTE road car and T125 race car will follow soon after.
GALLERY: Lotus China
The truth is, it’s been languishing in the middle for far too long, and the boss of Geely Automobiles, Li Shufu, has been wanting to take the brand upscale ever since his Chinese company acquired this most Swedish of brands.
Now it seems he will finally get his way. While Volvo bosses have resisted to go upmarket in the past, Shufu has influenced them to have a rethink, primarily after showing them sales figures in China. While models like the XC60 and the China-special long-wheelbase S80 are flourishing, sales of its smaller cars like the S40 have been very low.
This indicates that in an emerging and growing market like China, Volvo can do better as a luxury brand rather than a mid-field brand.
Shufu, who described Volvo as “a trapped tiger,” wants to compete with the likes of the A8 and 7-series with a full-size luxury car. What will the new model be called and when will it be out is not yet known, but we look forward to seeing what they will come up with next.
[Source: Automotive News]
There used to be a time when China was an “export-only” nation. But with China all the rage, foreign companies are making their way into this burgeoning market, and Caterham Cars is the latest entrant.
Caterham Cars has just signed an exclusive deal with Courtenay Trading International (CTI) as its exclusive importer. CTI will appoint six dealers in China, in some of its key provinces, and hopes to sell between 30 and 50 cars in its first year.
All of the current line of Caterham Seven’s will be offered, including the rapid Superlight R300 and the CSR 175. Models like the SP/300 R might be introduced at a later date.
On this occasion, Caterham Cars’ International Business Manager, David Ridley, said: “We are engaged in one of the most exciting new chapters in the Caterham Cars story and our entry into the Chinese market is another tangible sign of how Caterham is striving to become a truly global brand.”
While Caterham has been present in the Far East, namely Japan for quite a long time, this is the first time customers in China will be able to park one on their driveway. The first Sevens are scheduled to arrive in China in January 2012.
Having opened its first dealers in China in 2008, Aston Martin has announced plans to make a significant push into the world’s largest auto market. With an initial spread of four dealers in major centers such as Beijing, Chengdu, Hangzhou and Shanghai, the exotic British sports car brand will look to double its presence over the next 12 months by adding four more.
“Now is the right time for us to accelerate our growth in China,” said Aston Martin CEO Dr Ulrich Bez. “We have taken our time to gradually establish the building blocks to ensure long-term stability for the Aston Martin brand in the region and – encouraged by reaction from customers – it is right for us to grow our presence.”
“Clearly, China offers the largest emerging luxury market in the world and offers substantial growth potential for us while allowing us to remain exclusive and fulfilling our strategy of becoming less dependent on classic established (western) markets.”
In addition to doubling its dealership presence, Aston Martin will also set up a regional office in Shanghai.
With sales having grown 25 percent in 2010, Aston Martin will look to grow that number again in 2011 with the addition of the Virage, Vantage S and Rapide now on sale in China. By the 2012 sales year, the brand should have its eight-strong dealer network fully operational, in order to solidify growth in the rapidly expanding market.
The Chinese auto industry is reaching new peaks. That was probably the reason South Korean auto manufacturer Kia choose to name their new Rio sedan K2 for the Chinese market.
As many of you should know, K2 is one of the tallest mountains in the world, and this Chinese built Kia will hopefully take its makers sales figures sky high.
This miniature version of the Optima sedan will be available in China in six trim levels. Buyers will get to choose between a 1.4-liter or 1.6-liter engine. Both motors are four-cylinder units and power is sent to the front wheels via either manual or automatic gearbox.
Kia has just unveil the North American version of the Rio at the 2011 New York International Auto Show.
The K2 is now on display at the 2011 Shanghai Auto Show in China.
Ask any auto manufacturer and they will say that one of the most important car markets at the moment is China. With their population and economic growth, China is now one of the largest car markets in the world, and it shows no signs of slowing down.
Jaguar/Land Rover opened a flagship store in Beijing last month, and expects to sell 400 vehicles a year from this facility. Another new showroom in the city of Tianjin has also opened doors, and should move about 200 vehicles a year.
In 2010, Jaguar/Land Rover sales doubled in China, with Jaguar moving 2700 vehicles, while Land Rover moved an astonishing 23,500 vehicles, suggesting SUV’s are the preferred mode of transport for the rich.
Speaking to Autocar Magazine, Ford‘s European design chief Martin Smith said “Our marketing people are telling us there’s demand for an affordable family saloon,” and Ford appears to be moving in that direction for the Chinese market.
The Blue Oval will prepare a concept for the Beijing Auto Show, but rather than target the wealthy coastal areas of China, this car will go after the poorer, inland markets where basic transportation would be a big purchase for the average family. Using either a Focus or Fiesta platform, the car would still meet strict crash standards, but would be decontented with less sophisticated features in order to reduce costs. “We’d never engineer out safety,” Smith said, “but you could give it single-piece headlights and tail lights, and reduce the glass panels in the side from three to two.”
The previous generation Focus, known as the C1 (a different car than our previous compact Ford) would likely underpin the car, as Chinese buyers are thought to be more receptive to a larger vehicle.
According to China Car Times, the price of the new Porsche Cayenne S hybrid in China will be an eye watering 1.7-million Yuan, or roughly $257,397 in our currency.
That means in China customers will pay the same amount of money for the humble Cayenne S hybrid as we would for a 911 GT2 RS, which is currently the most expensive model made by the company.
The reason cars are more expensive in China is because of high importation taxes on foreign goods, and since the Cayenne hybrid can only manage 23-MPG, it won’t qualify for any green-incentives either.
The Cayenne S hybrid is now on sale in North America and can be yours for a much more reasonable $67,700.
The importance of the Chinese market for car companies is growing at an astounding rate. Hoping to capitalize on this growth, Honda has launched a new sub-compact car at the 2010 China International Automobile Exhibition.
The new model is called the S1 and is launched under the Chinese market only brand of Li Nian, a brand formed by the alliance of Guangzhou Automobile Group and Honda Corporation. Think of Li Nian as the opposite of Acura, cars under this brand are targeted towards younger, first-time buyers.
Details are scarce on the S1, but it appears to be riding on the Honda City platform, and likely uses 1.3-liter and 1.5-liter petrol engines from Asian market Honda products.
Li Nian says the S1 is aimed towards younger buyers and, “adopts a powerful, energetic and outstanding design form.” Yes indeed, we’ll take your word for it.
No plans to bring this model to the North American market. Thank you Honda.
In the Chinese market, Buick is kind of a big deal. Driven by emperors in pre-Communist times, the brand has carved itself a nice as a premium automaker that’s still accessible to the middle class. Most of their products are carried over from the American market (though built locally), but some, like the GL8 minivan are the kind of oddities that could only exist offshore.
The GL8, despite its minivan layout, is marketed as an executive transport vehicle. Think “livery car” but with lots of room to stretch out and do work, or transport clients from their airports and hotels to various factories and job sites throughout the country. Yes, the minivan bodystyle is a little strange, but there’s also no “suburban mom/emasculated dad” image to contend with in China.
At nearly 207 inches long, the GL8 is a beast of a car – about 10 inches longer than a Chrysler 300C. Power comes from GM’s 3.0L direct injection V6 or a 2.4L Ecotec 4-cylinder backed by a 6-speed automatic. GM will continue to sell the previous model GL8, though the van will also get a refresh, as it moves to target a more mainstream demographic.