By on March 7, 2016

2017 Lincoln Continental rear view

If you woke up not knowing the Chinese hate “new car” smell, consider yourself a well-informed person now.

Successfully selling a new vehicle in China means having to avoid the many cultural and legal traps specific to that growing market, reports Automotive News.

What works somewhere else might be a massive faux pas for Chinese buyers, meaning one wrong minor detail and an automaker can kiss its expensive international expansion goodbye. That’s a big concern for American automakers eyeing China in the hopes of boosting their global sales.

The middle and executive class of the world’s most populous country can’t get enough of exotic nameplates that ooze status and prestige, a trend capitalized on by the likes of Buick, Cadillac, and increasingly, Lincoln.

Lincoln’s plush 2017 Continental was destined for China from the word “go.” With that in mind, it was designed with an emphasis on rear-seat comfort to cater to the type that don’t get their hands dirty.

But legroom and a well-cushioned backside doesn’t cut it. For China, Lincoln had to scrap the U.S. model’s cushy leather upholstery for a tighter fit that doesn’t have wrinkles or lines in it.

Wrinkly leather? Can’t have it. Sloppy, you see.

During transport across the Pacific, odor-absorbing carbon sheets will be placed inside the Lincolns to eliminate that repellent new car smell, which can be purchased by the bottle in the U.S. in order to impress your friends.

“They have high demands in terms of craftsmanship and fit and finish,” said Pei-Wen Hsu, deputy general manager of marketing for Lincoln in China.

Buick, which will produce the Envision crossover in China and export it elsewhere, has had to nix one of the model’s two front seat cup holders and replace it with a touchscreen. As well, because China forbids roof racks and trailer hitches on private vehicles (can’t tempt anarchy), those will also be getting the boot.

China’s centralized Communist government might not be all that responsive or sympathetic when it comes to reporting potholes, so Chinese Envisions are offered with less wheel (17-inch versus the U.S. Model’s 19-inch) and more rubber to cushion the inevitable blow.

If their country can’t provide a desired level of craftsmanship in its roadways — or public elevators and escalators — at least the country’s nouveau riche can feel safe in their own cars.

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34 Comments on “Automakers’ China Push Comes With a Risk … of Offending...”


  • avatar
    qfrog

    Do the carbon sheets turn green to let the Chinese know that all of the toxins have been extracted. Maybe the sheets come with a chart to indicate what sort of toxins have been extracted?

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    God the stories of the elevator and escalator deaths are awful. I really didn’t need to see the child killed by the escalator in particular. That country cannot seem to get a handle on public safety/inspections/quality.

  • avatar
    Whatnext

    Can we request big sheets of toxin absorbing material be placed in all the ships carrying cheap crap from China? Might give us a heads up on that Melamine laced baby formula.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    China’s a bad place to bet big, as capital flows are coming out hot & heavy, despite the Chinese Politburo’s best efforts to stem that tide (Maximum $50,000 USD withdrawal per year from Chinese banks, which is being circumvented in ingenious ways) – and even by China’s own, official 5-year economic plan, 50 million Chinese workers will lose jobs in the next 5 years as industries in overproduction are dramatically curbed (so, probably just take those 50 million jobs and multiply by 3.5 to 7 times, to you understand the likely real number of jobs that will be eliminated.

    China is literally facing a slowing in economic growth that already is or soon will be dipping into many quarters and years of contraction, and is at risk of a big D economic depression.

    • 0 avatar
      VCplayer

      Still plenty of marks… uh, “customers” for luxury vehicles. Probably a terrible time to break in as a mass market brand though.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        Chinese growth is at a 25 year low and is actually on the possible brink of negative growth (if not already there).

        Very few people outside of global financial insiders and governmental officials are cognizant of this, as they ponder how the Chinese Government is going to manage this major crisis unfolding in real time.

        Bloomberg just did a deep site into the: Check out the dying cities as captured in photos, and read the stats cited in the article.

        http://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2016-03-01/death-and-despair-in-china-s-rustbelt

        It’s incredible and deeply consequential to not just the Asian region, but the global economy.

        • 0 avatar
          iamcanjim

          Major issue is the debt crisis. Both at the top (underperforming public and private companies being bailed out with government funds) and at the bottom (since property can’t be owned, the property market in condos is the only major investment by most Chinese. Since most buildings fall apart after 10 years, consumers will be getting hammered when their investments literally fall down). So far the gov’t has avoided things by throwing money around but has fixed any of the structural problem.

    • 0 avatar
      zip89105

      Ford sold 63,000 vehicles in China in February, up 18% YTD. Selling Lincoln the way the Chinese want it is a great idea. Also, Ford recently completed and has four or more plants pumping out vehicles. Ford’s future growth in the near term will be China more than any other country.

  • avatar
    VCplayer

    It’s sort of weird that “new car smell” is a thing in this country in the first place, it’s just a mixture of industrial odors leftover from manufacture. I would actually love an odorless vehicle if I was going to buy new.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      I once associated “new car smell” with… well… a new car. But now I know better and also prefer an odorless vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      It’s a smell most people find pleasant. I was disappointed that my first new car, (a Subaru Impreza) didn’t have any new car smell. That’s when I found out it was from all the harmful chemicals that are banned in Japan.

    • 0 avatar
      N8iveVA

      I actually love that new car smell in most cars. Some of the exceptions being Hyundai/Kia. I don’t know about 2016’s but a couple years ago the new car smell from their cheap plastics was awful.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    You hear that, Corey? Apparently, they’re not big fans of the classic Lexus pleated leather look (which Mercedes-Benz also used in the 90s and early 2000s). Shame!

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Boo, to less quantity of leather with less luxurious ruching. Just creases faster, as we see across the board today.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      I like the new leather look, but I also like the way leather ages. Lines and wrinkles add character. Pleated leather also has a classy look. Admittedly, this is an acquired (and decidedly Western) taste, so I see the challenges to automakers.

    • 0 avatar
      tekdemon

      Lincoln is coming into a market where everyone thinks of Audi and Mercedes as the luxury benchmarks so trying to convince everyone that your ruffled leather is the way to go is a tough sell, whereas in the US everyone is aware of old American luxury cars.

      Honestly though I think they should have kept that velour interior from the concept and at least offered it as an option, I think the Chinese would have loved it since it’d be something so different. In Japan they love the velour still too on luxury cars.

  • avatar

    Can China use cheap labor to build 6.2-L supercharged engines for 1/3 the price?

    Or Tesla P90D L for 1/4th the price?

    Because if they can…

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    So it took the better taste of Chinese buyers to reign in some of the poor choices of US product planners? Winning!

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    “They have high demands in terms of craftsmanship and fit and finish.” With emphasis on demands, not on what they actually produce. I guess we all want the exotic.

    • 0 avatar
      tekdemon

      There are things that are exquisitely crafted in China, and lots of people who still possess some amazing skills of craftsmanship. I’ve been in person and seen the artists who do amazing things like this: http://traditions.cultural-china.com/en/16Traditions1550.html as well as porcelain pieces with very intricate miniature murals ridiculously carefully hand painted (I know it was legitimately hand crafted because they were doing it in front of my eyes and I was frankly blown away and really regret not buying a whole bunch).

  • avatar
    wmba

    Mmm, mmm, theres nothing like the smell of exuding PVC trim molecules in the morning!

    That milky haze on the inside of the glass.

    What’s really a gas is this article from TTAC, where Chinese cars had the worst new car odor of all, Ronnie Screiber your writer.

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/say-new-car-smell-offgassing-chinese/

    Maybe that’s why they want new cars with no smell in China.

    But for some background, here’s an article from C/D 13 years ago. it’s amusing.

    http://m.caranddriver.com/features/secrets-of-that-new-car-smell

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    Just make sure if you hit a pedestrian you run them over for good measure because in China it’s cheaper that way….

  • avatar
    laserwizard

    Sadly, because the Chinese are idiots and love Buicks, that brand was saved rather than retaining Pontiac (which actually sold more vehicles in the US at that time). We get it. The Chinese are weird. And since it is only logical to pander to your customers, if you want to sell new cars there, you have to remove the new car smell.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      Fascinating logic. GM for 30 years destroyed Pontiac, but “idiot” Chinese consumers are the ones at fault for GM closing Pontiac. Just an amazing leap of logic that can only be created by a true wizard of lasers.


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