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2004 Beijing Motor Show, Part III


Beijing show luxury sedan

Beijing show luxury sedan

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Beijing Motor Show Index

 

If you build it?

The big question that carmakers need to ask is what do consumers want in China? In wealthier, more established markets, such as Beijing, buyers demand the latest products, but in other regions, the situation is different, cautioned Michael Dunne, founder of the regional consulting firm, Automotive Resources Asia. “There are two markets here. In the countryside, it’s all about price, price, price.” And that’s where China’s homegrown manufacturers may have an advantage. Companies like Geely have some very simple, very basic products to show off, but these are, said Dunne, “affordable cars for the masses.” That’s not to say Western manufacturers have ignored the opportunities entirely. One of General Motors’ six joint ventures teams it with the Chinese partner, Wuling, which produces small and simple pickups and vans starting at just over $3000. —TCC Team

 

 

China’s new entrepreneurs

Maybach M57 Beijing show

Maybach M57 Beijing show

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With his hip-hop haircut and simple T-shirt, James Wang might easily be confused with any of the young Beijing residents who came to Auto China 2004 to look and dream about the day when they could buy their first car. But Wang already owns a Porsche 911, as well as a Subaru WRX STi, and was at the show’s press day to pick up the keys for his newest automotive acquisition: a Maybach M62. The 27-year-old real estate entrepreneur paid around US$600,000 for the massive luxury machine, after import duties and other taxes. “I like cars,” he explained in near-flawless English, adding “I was just waiting for this car to come to China.” Wang is part of a young and incredibly affluent new class of businessmen who are emerging in the new China, and like their counterparts in the West, they are struck with car fever. But he admitted there is still a bit of a social stigma against those who show off too much, so like the 911, the M62 will spend most of its time parked. “I don’t drive it that much. I just like to go out to my garage and look at it.” —TCC Team

 

 

Luxury leaders

Aston in China

Aston in China

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Luxury brands were in abundance at this year’s car show, many newly arrived to this auto-crazy nation. But the manufacturers are hoping to make up for lost time. Initially, “We’d like to be in the business in a fairly small way, with three dealers” in China, said Aston Martin’s Bill Donnelley, “but we’re clearly taking the long view. Right now the top end of the market is only about 300 cars a year, but the long-term potential is tremendous.” Aston hopes to start out selling about 25 cars annually in China, starting with the DB9 and Vanquish models.
Beijing show Kid with Jaguar

Beijing show Kid with Jaguar

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It will add the V-8 in 2006. But within five years it believes sales could jump tenfold, making China one of its largest world markets. China is already rivaling Japan for Mercedes-Benz, which expects to see sales surge past 50,000 in the near-term. Mercedes was one of the first luxury brands in the market, and already has about 100,000 S-Class sedans on the road in China. As the result of a new joint venture, it will begin producing E- and C-Class cars in the country next year, but with import tariffs coming down as China joins the WTO, Mercedes also plans to expand its line-up of import models, including the American-made M-Class SUV. —TCC Team

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