Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

China to dictate world car design [The Age/AFP]

Source - BBC, 2012

Fancy a dragon-tattooed jeep?

On the back of the Auto China Show 2012 in Beijing, AFP reports that the world’s top auto market since 2009 is set to influence how cars are designed around the world. Is the world ready for automobiles that appeal to Chinese tastes first? Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise with bottom-line figures telling.

When it took over the US as top car market, it saw 13.5m cars and trucks roll out. Last year car sales were at 18.5m. Analysts believe this year will see an increase of 10%. 20m cars sold each year just sounds staggering.

Interestingly, the Chinese government requires foreign automobile makers to team up with domestic partners. This way they enter the market as a domestic producer than as an importer.

– – –

China to dictate world car design
Source – The Age, published April 30, 2012

The sheer size of the Chinese car market is forcing Western car makers to think about restyling their cars to appeal to Chinese tastes first.

As more and more Chinese buy cars, car makers say consumer tastes in the Asian nation have a growing influence on vehicle design the world over.

China emerged as the world’s top car market in 2009, and though the sector stalled last year, with sales rising just 2.5 per cent to 18.51 million, carmakers are convinced it is where the industry’s future lies.

Manufacturers at this week’s Auto China 2012 exhibition in Beijing said they have started to include features that appeal to the Chinese consumer – from large grilles and highly visible chrome fittings to luxury back seats for the in-laws.

“We want to have more China elements in our design for global cars,” says Shen Li, spokeswoman for Nissan China.

“The designers find inspiration in traditional paper cutting, or in Tang (dynasty) paintings representing opulent women. Every model in the future has to have a good potential in China.”

Drive’s coverage of the 2012 Beijing Motor Show

The car penetration rate in China is still relatively low compared to more mature markets in North America or Europe, but last year, even with the sales slowdown, more cars were sold in the Asian nation than in the United States.

Until recently, foreign car manufacturers adapted existing models sold in Europe or North America to the Chinese market. But with the rise of China and its global footprint, the trend is the other way round.

“In the future as China grows, we will increasingly need to take into account the weight of the Chinese market,” says Frederic Banzet, director at Citroen.

“We will work from a design with Chinese characteristics and adapt it to other markets,” he says.

To this end, PSA Peugeot Citroen set up a design studio in Shanghai in 2008 aiming to understand the Chinese market and launch targeted products to increase its market share.

The studio now counts some 650 employees, and the company plans to increase headcount to 1000.

Volkswagen Group has also invested heavily in two design studios – one in Shanghai and another in the north-eastern city of Changchun.

“The chrome finishings, the interior wood work… We are delivering the whole package to the United States,” says Walter de Silva, head of design for the group, which owns a total of eleven brands including Audi and Lamborghini.

Volkswagen’s new Passat was designed and launched in China last year, and hit the roads in the United States a few months later.

Simon Loasby, director of design for Volkswagen in China, says designs from China have a growing influence on Volkswagen cars globally, while many Chinese designers are also working on projects in Germany.

“It is amazing how much of what is started here can fertilise the rest of the world,” he says.



Filed under: AFP, Automotive, Beijing Consensus, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Domestic Growth, Economics, Finance, Influence, Soft Power, Strategy, The Age

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