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Old 02-21-2010, 02:47 AM   #1
AVANTI R5
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Default Auto Designers Cater To China, the New Giant





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Western automakers have started designing cars specifically for the huge Chinese market, and we don’t mean just meeting tighter pollution and fuel-efficiency standards.

The new cars and concepts have exterior contours that comport to Chinese ideas of balance, with interior colors and fabrics designed to signify status and evoke respect. The controls for entertainment and climate systems might even be moving to the back seat, because truly wealthy people don’t drive, they have drivers.

Thirty years ago, the People’s Republic of China was an automotive backwater. Today it’s the biggest market in the world, having just eclipsed the United States. So, its consumers are demanding the best from automotive designers.

The explosive growth of the Chinese market, where consumers bought 17 million new cars last year compared to about 10 million in the United States, has been a bright light in an otherwise dark time for the auto industry. As the traditional markets of North America, Europe and Japan stagnate or decline, automakers have seen their sales in China double and double again.

“This is clearly the market of the future,” says Freidhelm Engler, General Motors director of design in China. “It’s not going to slow down.”

That has automakers taking a fresh look at how they design cars for the Chinese market. Although Western designs have proven immensely popular in China, global car companies were slow to account for Chinese tastes and preferences. More often than not, automakers made a few small tweaks to the cars they sold in the West and shipped them over.

“Ten to 15 years ago, companies brought existing designs or even dated designs to the Chinese market,” says Chelsia Lau, chief designer at Ford Asia-Pacific. “Consumers in China are no longer satisfied to accept designs directly copied from overseas and are now far more discriminating and demanding.”


Volkswagen designed the Lavida specifically for China and introduced the car in 2008. Photo: Volkswagen.

First, a quick history lesson on how we got here.
A little more than a generation ago, China’s GDP per capita was just over $100. As a command economy with a decrepit transportation network, it offered little incentive for Western automakers to sell there. Not that it mattered, because the governments of China and the United States didn’t want them to, anyway.

That started to change in the 1970s as the two countries normalized relations, and Deng Xiaoping (Mao Zedong’s successor) created economic zones where foreign manufacturers could build. Automakers rushed to establish joint ventures with Chinese companies and start selling cars.

As China’s economy grew, so did demand for cars. As money poured in, the increasingly wealthy population began to buy a lot of cars. China’s increasingly affluent middle class is larger than the entire U.S. population, and the Chinese market has been the fastest-growing for several years.

Last year, it surpassed the United States to become the largest automotive market in the world. It was a long-awaited marker that came unexpectedly soon after the economic recession brought U.S. car sales to a screeching halt.

Now vehicle designers in China face unique challenges and opportunities. They are being given control over large organizations and an increasingly influential voice.
Ford started building cars in China in 2003 and moved its Asia-Pacific offices from Bangkok to Shanghai last year. GM has increased its design staff in China from 80 in 2005 to 1,700.

Both are playing catch-up to Volkswagen, which was among the first companies to enter China and last year managed to sell more cars than any other automaker, Chinese or otherwise.

The challenges facing these designers is daunting. A vast cultural gulf separates China from the U.S. and Europe, requiring different design considerations and a new consumer portrait. Brands marketed in China are largely unencumbered by their legacies abroad, allowing for radical redefinitions. Buick, for example, known in the United States as a car for old people, is in China popular among wealthy businessmen.

“Just imagine, for a moment, a Buick Regal,” says Engler, “A buyer could be around 30…. This is different from a consumer who is 15-20 years older and is in a different league.”


The Buick Business concept was designed specifically for Chinese tastes. Photo: General Motors

Some design considerations are wholly different in China, where a car’s most important role is often to serve as an indicator of wealth and power. Take a look at the Buick Business concept pictured at right. See the cut of the headlights, meant to mimic traditional Chinese liuli glass?

See the chrome trim? Chrome is huge in China. See the connecting line between head and taillights and how it drops at the rear seats to emphasize the passenger and increase visibility?

Inside, the back seat envelops the passenger “like a clam,” Engler says, in the same manner as an emperor’s throne. Interior coloring is nearly monotone from the rear passenger’s perspective in accordance with Chinese expectations of a car. Notice the deep purple color. GM says was “chosen to elicit the right level of attention and respect” and named it euphemistically after a rare and slow-growing Chinese tree, It was designed, Engler says, to look like a smooth fabric blowing in the wind.

“It has a nice gesture to it, something which is very Chinese,” he adds. Try finding that look in an American GM product.

Describing the Shanghai office’s influence on the update of the modest Ford Fiesta, head designer Chelsia Lau uses words like “sleek” and “elegant,” phrases that might be a stretch to a potential American buyer. But in China, where families routinely pool their money to buy a car, it makes sense to make a car sound as upscale as possible.

In China, the focus of control shifts from the driver’s seat to the passenger or rear seat, where the owner might prefer to sit, as it indicates higher status. Because the rear seat is the position of power, that’s where you’ll find controls for the radio, heat, sunroof and so forth. In the United States, of course, the driver controls everything.

The same principle requires a new focus on the entire car. Designers place special emphasis on exterior styling, which is held to higher standard than in the West. Loosely-fitted panels and extraneous add-ons are not tolerated, as the exterior is subject to a particularly laser-like focus, and buyers want to be seen in the best.

“Yin and yang, black and white, balance is very important to a Chinese customer,” says Engler, who spent two decades designing in Europe before moving to China. “Balance and harmony, those are the key words here for design. You cannot skip it, you cannot work around it.”

Automakers have begun to step outside their traditional stomping grounds to introduce vehicles exclusively to China. These cars, designed and built in China, are the first tentative steps toward adapting to Chinese consumer preferences. VW’s Lavida, for example, is a fairly conservative remaking of the ubiquitous Golf. Chevrolet’s Sail is a classic brand resurrected for China.

In some ways, China is a more advanced market. Pollution regulations, which are in some ways stricter than the U.S. and Europe, translate to limited engine size and fantastic fuel efficiency, trends which some predict will envelop the Western markets in the years to come. Research into battery technology has a higher priority in China than in the United States, one result being an already-evident edge in some aspects of batteries.

The design trend isn’t all one-way. Chinese domestic manufacturers have long eyed lucrative Western markets for their products, and they face similar challenges in producing cars that appeal to Western consumers. The result has been some pretty weird ideas, a few of which were exhibited at the recent Detroit Auto Show.

But this may be the year we’ll find out just how well Chinese manufacturers have done: BYD, well established in China, plans to introduce an all-electric car to North America, and several other domestic Chinese companies have announced plans to enter the market soon.

Volvo is likely to end up in the hands of China’s Geely, and Hummer may be China-owned by the end of the month. Bits and pieces — a Ford engine, the Wheego Whip chassis — are just the beginning.

With the demands of the enormous Chinese market, the expansion of Chinese companies into the West and the introduction of Chinese vehicles to U.S., American consumers should expect to see some Chinese characteristics make their way across the ocean. “Decoration to enhance proportion,” says Engler, “may show up in North America in coming months.”

The increasingly early influence of Chinese design bureaus on globally designed cars means we might soon recognize that new cars are a little toned-down — balanced, as a Chinese designer might say. That doesn’t mean the Chevrolet Corvette or Ford F-150 will suddenly be remade.

But some of the characteristics of Chinese cars and the influences of the people buying them will inevitably make their way to the United States.

That isn’t a bad thing. Because maybe the Mustang could use a little more harmony

http://www.wired.com/autopia/2010/02...ign-for-china/
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Old 02-21-2010, 05:55 AM   #2
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“Yin and yang, black and white, balance is very important to a Chinese customer,”
Sounds like he read some China for dummies books and start making stuff up to make himself look important.
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Old 02-21-2010, 07:13 AM   #3
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Every one of the cars in the pictures looks ugly and has far too much chrome
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Old 02-21-2010, 11:14 AM   #4
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buck tooth grill
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Old 02-21-2010, 11:47 AM   #5
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buick tooth grill
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Old 02-21-2010, 11:57 AM   #6
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ah the Chinese have a deep love for Buick.

As for the chrome, I think that the more chrome you have the more the Chinese will like it.
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Old 02-21-2010, 04:10 PM   #7
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Different designs for different design briefs...makes sense to me. It's nothing new. Same reasons why we don't get a lot of the European / Japanese models here...
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Old 02-21-2010, 06:40 PM   #8
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Well, I hope that these designers are significantly cheaper than Chinese designers and I hope they use a lot of lead in their designs.
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Old 02-21-2010, 07:03 PM   #9
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Of all the cars gm make,there are other cars that are more interesting than a Buick. Why are the chinese so attracted to Buicks?
Its nice to know American cars are being appreciated.
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Old 02-22-2010, 12:34 AM   #10
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Of all the cars gm make,there are other cars that are more interesting than a Buick. Why are the chinese so attracted to Buicks?
Its nice to know American cars are being appreciated.
Has to do with history. Past (pre-communism, '30s and '40s) Chinese leaders had a thing with Buicks. It's a status thing.

Yeah! A whole bunch (1.3 billion) new folks to indoctrinate into the joys of consumerism. I don't understand the hate. Their new buying power may mean a nice economic future for us, assuming we are smart enough to leverage it. Sales in China are probably the thing that's going to save GM.
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Old 02-22-2010, 01:07 AM   #11
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Has to do with history. Past (pre-communism, '30s and '40s) Chinese leaders had a thing with Buicks. It's a status thing.

Yeah! A whole bunch (1.3 billion) new folks to indoctrinate into the joys of consumerism. I don't understand the hate. Their new buying power may mean a nice economic future for us, assuming we are smart enough to leverage it. Sales in China are probably the thing that's going to save GM.
yeah, I agree. GM should be pumping 100% quality and craftsmanship into Buick. Its their new cash cow.

Anyway, I dont know if this is fake but, its funny.

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Old 02-22-2010, 01:58 AM   #12
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China the new Giant? Still second class econimy even with all the hoopla
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Old 02-22-2010, 08:20 AM   #13
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China the new Giant? Still second class econimy even with all the hoopla
go short china then.
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Old 02-22-2010, 08:29 AM   #14
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Not saying that you shouldnt pay attention to the Chinese market, all I am saying is that China produces and owns 4.4% of the worlds wealth and the US owns 21.8% of the worlds wealth. Fears that the Chinese might be overeaching on thier goals and that thier bubble probably will bust in the next year or two does not warrant Giant status as the headline of the thread says.
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Old 02-22-2010, 10:23 AM   #15
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China the new Giant? Still second class econimy even with all the hoopla
What does “second class” mean? Like the way how the Europeans described our economy not too long ago?

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Originally Posted by ASU View Post
Not saying that you shouldnt pay attention to the Chinese market, all I am saying is that China produces and owns 4.4% of the worlds wealth and the US owns 21.8% of the worlds wealth. Fears that the Chinese might be overeaching on thier goals and that thier bubble probably will bust in the next year or two does not warrant Giant status as the headline of the thread says.
Existing wealth is one thing, and future growth is another. China has surpassed US’s auto purchases, and that stat will not likely reverse anytime soon. Choose to debate that point if you like, but auto manufacturers are gearing up and banking on that trend. The title of the article is certainly warranted.

Oh yeah, good point about China's economic bubble...of course, we've never heard of "economic bubbles" here in the US now, have we? lol If/when that happens, we will be in a world of hurt too...
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Old 02-22-2010, 12:34 PM   #16
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Different designs for different design briefs...makes sense to me. It's nothing new. Same reasons why we don't get a lot of the European / Japanese models here...
We don't get Japanese/Euro models here because the execs are too thick headed to realise there is a market for good cars from both places.
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Old 02-22-2010, 01:01 PM   #17
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We don't get Japanese/Euro models here because the americans are too thick (read: FAT).
fix0r
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Old 02-22-2010, 01:36 PM   #18
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From a business standpoint this makes sense as the U.S. continues to decline. China is emerging rapidly and GM does not want to be a too small player when the party starts.

Plus, unlike Americans, the Chinese do not associate Buick with the dentures and diapers crowd.
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Old 02-22-2010, 09:17 PM   #19
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China the new Giant? Still second class econimy even with all the hoopla
There, there, don't get your feelings hurt; if you are worried about China surpassing the US as the preeminent Superpower, relax, they won't don't be, and likely never will. What China lacks, and which isn't in-grained in their culture, is the will to take take on the burden of world leadership and lead on a global, political scale.

Leadership in things such as; relief in Haiti, nation-building in Bosnia and Afghanistan (though that could be called something different, depending on your POV ) Sure, the Chinese use their clout to influence, but they don't lead, simply because it's not in their nature. They are generally content with simply being prosperous.

That is why the US will continue to lead the world politically (and at the same time be criticized harshly - sometimes with good reason - by everyone else). What they will be is something like Japan; equal to, or surpassing the US, in economic terms. That's not a bad thing, because as they grow, the US has the ability to cash in, since the US still holds the most recognized trademarks in the world. (yeah, the Chinese love copying, but I guarantee you that as their wealth grows, they will want and demand the real thing. It's only human nature). We can pout and stand off in a corner, or we can take advantage of it. I hope we have some smart people thinking of the latter.
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Old 02-22-2010, 09:27 PM   #20
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yeah, I agree. GM should be pumping 100% quality and craftsmanship into Buick. Its their new cash cow.

Anyway, I dont know if this is fake but, its funny.


YouTube- Crazy girl goes crazy for new Buick Regal
Haha, that came up awhile ago; it's not so much a girl going crazy over a Buick, but throwing a tantrum to get her BF/SO/Hubby to buy it (probably because it is a Buick - the status thing again), which he finally agrees to (I'll buy it! I'll buy it! I'll buy it!). Funny as it is, it illustrates my point.
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Old 02-23-2010, 10:26 AM   #21
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There, there, don't get your feelings hurt; if you are worried about China surpassing the US as the preeminent Superpower, relax, they won't don't be, and likely never will. What China lacks, and which isn't in-grained in their culture, is the will to take take on the burden of world leadership and lead on a global, political scale.

Leadership in things such as; relief in Haiti, nation-building in Bosnia and Afghanistan (though that could be called something different, depending on your POV ) Sure, the Chinese use their clout to influence, but they don't lead, simply because it's not in their nature. They are generally content with simply being prosperous.

That is why the US will continue to lead the world politically (and at the same time be criticized harshly - sometimes with good reason - by everyone else). What they will be is something like Japan; equal to, or surpassing the US, in economic terms. That's not a bad thing, because as they grow, the US has the ability to cash in, since the US still holds the most recognized trademarks in the world. (yeah, the Chinese love copying, but I guarantee you that as their wealth grows, they will want and demand the real thing. It's only human nature). We can pout and stand off in a corner, or we can take advantage of it. I hope we have some smart people thinking of the latter.
While I don’t disagree with some of what you’ve said, there are far too many generalizations there to even begin to skim the surface and is probably pointless to debate on a public car forum.

Your point on US’s “burden of world leadership and lead on a global, political scale”, however, is naïve and misinformed. Our national debt is out of control, and you’re talking about “leading”?...From what position, and with what leverage? Wake up and smell the coffee!

Here’s a recent article that comments on that very point.
“To remain a global leader, we must ensure our own financial viability going forward.”

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000...LEFTTopOpinion
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Old 02-23-2010, 10:44 AM   #22
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China is quite interested in leading. They are throwing cash around all over to give them a more prominent position.
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Old 02-23-2010, 10:55 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by dclin View Post
There, there, don't get your feelings hurt; if you are worried about China surpassing the US as the preeminent Superpower, relax, they won't don't be, and likely never will. What China lacks, and which isn't in-grained in their culture, is the will to take take on the burden of world leadership and lead on a global, political scale.

Leadership in things such as; relief in Haiti, nation-building in Bosnia and Afghanistan (though that could be called something different, depending on your POV ) Sure, the Chinese use their clout to influence, but they don't lead, simply because it's not in their nature. They are generally content with simply being prosperous.

That is why the US will continue to lead the world politically (and at the same time be criticized harshly - sometimes with good reason - by everyone else). What they will be is something like Japan; equal to, or surpassing the US, in economic terms. That's not a bad thing, because as they grow, the US has the ability to cash in, since the US still holds the most recognized trademarks in the world. (yeah, the Chinese love copying, but I guarantee you that as their wealth grows, they will want and demand the real thing. It's only human nature). We can pout and stand off in a corner, or we can take advantage of it. I hope we have some smart people thinking of the latter.
smells like misinformed pp in here.
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Old 02-23-2010, 01:08 PM   #24
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Let them have Buick.
Let them have VW.
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Old 03-02-2010, 03:53 AM   #25
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While I don’t disagree with some of what you’ve said, there are far too many generalizations there to even begin to skim the surface and is probably pointless to debate on a public car forum.

Your point on US’s “burden of world leadership and lead on a global, political scale”, however, is naïve and misinformed. Our national debt is out of control, and you’re talking about “leading”?...From what position, and with what leverage? Wake up and smell the coffee!

Here’s a recent article that comments on that very point.
“To remain a global leader, we must ensure our own financial viability going forward.”

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000...LEFTTopOpinion
So who, in your opinion, think will take the US' place, and why? I never said the US isn't in a mess, and will take much work itself out of it, but I really don't see anybody taking it's place anytime soon, simply because nobody really wants to.

Back on topic: I arrived in Shengzen last night, and I am absolutely shocked at it's transformation. I was an ex-pat in Hong Kong the late '80s, and visited here a couple times while living there. You read and hear about the economic transformation, but it simply doesn't compare to seeing it in person. I simply don't recognize anything.

The majority of cars seem to be VWs, mostly taxis, followed by Hondas and Toyota's - Accords, Fits, Camry's, etc. Buicks are by far the most popular GM car; I've only seen 1 Aveo, 1 Cruze, and one CTS so far. Current model 5 series seem to be the luxury car of choice, they are all over the place.

Interesting thing is that Maybelline seems to be a higher end line here. I know absolutely nothing about cosmetics, but my sister commented how, while Maybelline is standard drugstore fare in the states, it seems to enjoy better product placement (high end stand, etc) here. I hope other US companies are taking advantage of the new market as well.
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