Category: China

By on July 29, 2016

2017 Buick Encore

Buick is all about China, where the brand claims more than 5 percent market share.

Buick’s achievements in the United States, once storied, are now not nearly so impressive. Buick’s market share in America today is half what it was in 2002, after volume declined in eight of 14 years, tumbling from more than 430,000 sales 14 years ago to 223,055 last year.

This is part of the Buick story we told you yesterday. In touting record global sales as one of the planet’s fastest-growing volume brands, Buick’s General Motors parent company also made clear that the brand is achieving rapidly increased rates of sales because of the Chinese market, even though U.S. sales are declining, albeit marginally.

Following our managing editor’s press of the publish button, we almost immediately heard from Buick. Read More >

By on July 28, 2016

2016 Buick Envision

General Motors today fêted Buick as the planet’s fastest-growing volume automaker. Ignored in GM’s press release was the Buick brand’s declining volume in Buick’s home market.

As if we needed more evidence that North America is an increasingly unimportant component of Buick’s future plans — Buick is discontinuing the Verano, its most popular car model in the U.S. and the most popular Buick overall in Canada — GM revealed that Buick added more Chinese sales between January and June than the whole U.S. Buick division managed in toto. Read More >

By on February 12, 2016

Bentley Export courtesy of

There’s not a more uncomfortable phone call for a car dealership’s finance manager to make then asking a customer to come back to have their finance or lease contract rewritten. This is typically caused by sales managers — the people most despised by finance departments — who spot deliver a vehicle based on their wrong guess about the rate or term a lender would approve the deal. Needless to say, the vast majority of these rewrites result in a higher monthly payment for the customer.

A couple of years ago, a finance manager at a Los Angeles Mercedes-Benz dealer told me and a Mercedes-Benz Financial colleague of mine about the day he picked up the phone to fix the opposite situation: the dealership had miscalculated the taxes on a client’s lease on a black ML350 Bluetec SUV and they needed the client to return and sign a new lease agreement reflecting payments of $14 per month lower than the original contract.

He called the customer with the good news only to hear, “No no no! Payment good. Payment good. We OK!”

After he hung up, he thought, “We just got snookered. That ML is probably on a slow boat to China and the factory is going to kill us.” Read More >

By on October 2, 2015


Dongfeng Pickup at Kashgar livestock market

Dongfeng Pickup at Kashgar livestock market

After Ürümqi, we are now headed 670 miles (1,080 km) south-west to the hinterland of the hinterland: Kashgar. It’s China’s westernmost city and predominantly populated by Muslim Uyghurs.

To give you a rough idea of what Kashgar looks like, the city stood in for Kabul in Afghanistan in the movie “The Kite Runner”. In fact, Kashgar is 2,100 miles (3,400 km) away from Beijing by air, but only 500 miles (816 km) separate it from Kabul, 390 miles (722 km) from Peshawar, Pakistan, 1,200 miles (2,200 km) from Tehran, Iran, and 1,600 miles (2,900 km) from Baghdad, Iraq.
Read More >

By on September 25, 2015

Brilliance V5

After covering the northernmost city in China (Mohe), we now travel to Ürümqi in the Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region in the westernmost part of China. I thought we may as well push it to the extreme and explore the provincial capital furthest from Beijing, a whopping 1,500 miles (2,400 km) away.

In fact, Ürümqi – pronounced something resembling “Yooloomooshee” – is both geographically and culturally closer to Kabul in Afghanistan than it is to Beijing. The majority of the population is Muslim and most Chinese road signs are dubbed in Arabic and sometimes Cyrillic script.

What are the most popular vehicles in this remote part of the world?

Read More >

By on September 18, 2015

1. Dongfeng dealership MoheDongfeng dealership in Mohe

We continue on our exploration of Chinese regions and after Harbin we head north to Mohe, still in the Heilongjiang province. This is the northernmost city in the whole of China, completely rebuilt in 1985 after a devastating fire, with striking Russian imperial-era style with colourful facades, spired domes and pillared entrances. A further 60 km (37 miles) north via a very quiet highway is Beijicun (literally “Arctic Village”), the northernmost settlement in China on the Amur River, the border with Russia.

In fact, from a couple places in Beijicun you can clearly see a Russian settlement on the other bank of the river. Even though it was the end of April when I visited, the river was carrying a large amount of ice blocks thawing their way toward the Japan Sea. As you can see on the map below the jump, in Mohe we are further north than any point in Mongolia and around the same latitude as the north of Lake Baikal — two regions I reported on in a previous Trans-Siberian series. You can see the Russian part of the Trans-Siberies Photo Series here and the Mongol part here.

So what are the most popular vehicles in Mohe?

Read More >

By on September 14, 2015

1. VW Jetta Harbin

After Mudanjiang, we are staying in the Heilongjiang province to travel to its capital, Harbin. It’s the 8th most populous Chinese city and the most populous in Northeast China, home to a total of 10.6 million inhabitants.

The uniqueness of Harbin resides in its Russian heritage. Refugees from the Russian socialist revolution in 1918 made Harbin the largest Russian enclave outside the Soviet Union. The Russian Harbin community peaked at 120,000 people in the early 1920s, accounting for well over half of the city’s population back then. As a result, a large part of the old town is comprised of Russian-influenced buildings including the St. Sofia Orthodox Cathedral. Harbin’s main pedestrian street is packed every night, including during the week, with locals enjoying their growing spending power as street food stands offer scorpions and centipedes among other delicacies.

A happily bustling city with a heart and a story to tell made it one of the highlights of this Northeastern China exploration. But what cars are Harbin inhabitants most fond of?

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By on August 28, 2015

1. Suzuki Lingyang taxi Mudanjiang

After Yanji in the Korean Autonomous Prefecture, we are now headed north to cross over to Mudanjiang in the Heilongjiang province, home to just under 1 million inhabitants.

Mudanjiang does have an airport, but it doesn’t have direct flights to either Yanji or Harbin, so it’s bus riding all the way for me to join these 3 cities and a good opportunity to check out the car landscape in the hilly Chinese countryside. Read More >

By on August 21, 2015

1. Hyundai Elantra Yanji

After Changchun, we hop on a short 45 minute flight to Yanji, capital of the little-known Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, next to the North Korean border. Yanbian was created in 1955 as a reward for Koreans who fought on the side of the communists in the Civil War and is the only minority prefecture in the north of China. Many Koreans refer to it as the “third Korea” — after the South and North, given it’s around half the size of South Korea. However, it’s home to just two million inhabitants, including roughly 400,000 in Yanji.

Read More >

By on August 14, 2015

VW Jetta taxi in front of the Chanchun Railway Station

After exploring the Shanghai car landscape, we are now headed North to land in Changchun, the capital city of the Jilin province and known as the Chinese Detroit.

Read More >

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