Category: China

By on July 20, 2017

air fresheners, Tony Alter/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

China doesn’t possess the same affinity for the iconic “new car smell” that remains popular in North America. The scent itself, a conglomeration of industrial adhesive fumes and the off-gassing of various plastics, is technically toxic air pollution trapped inside the vehicle’s cabin. However, Western drivers have made it synonymous with the pleasantries of owning a new vehicle, while Chinese motorists have not.

This brings up a very important question. Are they bad people?

While it would be very easy to use this single example to conclude that China is a perverse and disturbed nation, Westerners subjected to the volatile compounds of a new car’s interior on a particularly hot day might agree that the smell, in heavy doses, occasionally leaves something to be desired. Ideally, the odor should bring a tear to the eye due to nostalgia or pride, not because it’s trying to flush out the hazardous vapors emitted by baked vinyl.

“Research shows that vehicle interiors contain a unique cocktail of hundreds of toxic chemicals that off-gas in small, confined spaces,” said Jeff Gearhart, research director at the Ecology Center, which has been researching the the smell since 2006. “Since [most of] these chemicals are not regulated, consumers have no way of knowing the dangers they face. Our testing is intended to expose those dangers and encourage manufacturers to use safer alternatives.”

Automakers have been. As a result, the intensity of new car smell has diminished quite a bit since the early 2000s. In North America, it’s largely the result of trying to exclude carcinogenic fumes from substances like polyvinyl chloride. But in China, the practice extends out to nullifying any negative associations shoppers might have with the scent by trying to eliminate it entirely. It’s the number one concern for new car buyers, and automakers and customers go to great lengths to avoid even the slightest whiff.

Read More >

By on July 6, 2017

teb-1 Chinese elevated bus

Beijing, like most major metropolitan areas, has a problem with traffic. For a time, Chinese officials thought they had been sent a solution to gridlock in the form of a futuristic-looking urban conveyance dubbed the Transit Elevated Bus (TEB-1).

While not technically a bus at all, the vehicle acts as more like a catamaran on rails, moving a few hundred people over traffic as a colossal trolley. The concept for the TEB has been in existence since the late 1960s, however, no country had ever bothered to build one before China — and for good reason. Read More >

By on July 5, 2017

Concept EQ, Exterieur Concept EQ, exterior

Daimler AG is dumping half of a 5 billion yuan sum, or 735 million dollars, into China as part of a joint venture with BAIC Motor Corp. Together, the companies plan to establish the groundwork for competent EV production in the region — meaning a good ol’ fashioned battery factory.

The bill is split between the two firms, as China requires every foreign automaker to partner with a domestic one to do business within the country. The new factory will be a product of Beijing Benz Automotive, a blandly named limited liability company created to further Mercedes’ interest within the country and bolster its EV production capabilities globally. Read More >

By on June 28, 2017

BMW 2 Series, Image: BMW

BMW plans to streamline its manufacturing process by providing fewer model variants and eliminating less popular engine or equipment options. The goal here is to free up capital for research and development spending in the coming years, according to a Wednesday announcement from the brand’s chief finance officer, Nicolas Peter.

With most German automakers already pushing heavily into the realm of electric vehicles, BMW’s strong presence in China is forcing it to further bolster its efforts in EV development. The country’s particularly aggressive emission regulations and mandates on electric vehicle sales means any manufacturer hoping to persist within its borders will have to ensure 12 percent of its fleet is electric by 2020 — and BMW isn’t ready.

As a result, the automaker is trimming fat wherever it can find it. Unfortunately, that means eliminating the manual gearbox for the 2 Series in the United States and abandoning certain engine options for models across the globe. While BMW wasn’t explicit as to which motors won’t be returning, odds are good it will be the fun ones that don’t sell as well, plus the diesels.  Read More >

By on June 26, 2017

2016 Lotus Evora 400

Iconic British sportscar manufacturer Lotus may find a portion of its future production shifted to China under the ownership of its new parent company, Geely. Chinese billionaire and Geely chairman Li Shufu confirmed the possibility of some assembly taking place outside the United Kingdom during a press conference following the signing of the deal.

While this could stir outrage in some traditionalists, the Chinese company hasn’t mucked up things with Volvo yet and appears willing to apply a similar hands-off approach to the management of Lotus Cars.  Read More >

By on June 26, 2017

2015-Ford-Focus-06

Ford has plans to halt production of the compact Focus — a one-time juggernaut of a model — for an entire year. But wouldn’t you rather talk about the upcoming Ranger and Bronco?

Of course you would. You’d rather buy one, too, if only the resurrected nameplates were already on lots. Back in 2002, when Limp Bizkit was still on the charts and frosted tips hadn’t entirely disappeared from the hair scene, Ford unloaded 243,199 Focus cars to U.S. buyers. Compare that to the first five months of 2017, where 67,146 Foci left dealer lots in a marketplace where passenger car sales are falling like Brent crude prices in 2014.

It’s against this backdrop that Ford plans to temporarily pull the plug on the Focus. While there’s good reason for the shutdown, the automaker doesn’t seem all that concerned about it. Read More >

By on June 20, 2017

electric car charging smart car

With the possible exception of the United States in the near future, emission regulations are getting harsher everywhere. Nowhere is that more true than China. Not only does Asia’s most populous country have some of the most stringent emission requirements for new cars, it also has the strictest sales quotas for electrically powered vehicles on the planet. Too strict, according to some automakers.

A Chinese draft regulation issued last week stipulates automakers must sell enough electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles to comprise 8 percent of total volume by 2018, 10 percent by 2019, and 12 percent by 2020. This comes after talks between Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and German Chancellor Angela Merkel that hinted China might have mercy on Germany manufacturers.  Read More >

By on June 20, 2017

ford focus st, Image: Ford Motor Co.

There’s a good chance the next Ford Focus you purchase will have arrived via a slow boat from China. Despite abandoning assembly plans in Mexico earlier this year, Ford Motor Company has decided the next-generation model will remain an import, now by way of Asia.

Current Focus production in Wayne, Michigan will be eliminated in the middle of next year to make way for Ford’s upcoming Ranger pickup (in late 2018) and Bronco (in 2020). The automaker assures hourly workers they won’t suffer from layoffs resulting from the changeover, but admits to prioritizing its U.S. assembly plants for trucks and SUVs — vehicles Americans will actually buy. Read More >

By on June 11, 2017

ces-asia hyundai, Image: CES Asia

Automakers continue to snub mainstream automotive trade shows for CES, which is swiftly becoming one. Compared to Las Vegas’ Consumer Electronics Show, Asia’s nascent tech expo is exceptionally small but that hasn’t prevented automakers from taking an interest. Only in its third year, CES Asia hosted General Motors, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Hyundai, and Volvo.

In fact, several of the event’s large rooms housed nothing but products stemming from automotive manufacturers — underlining how automakers need to be perceived in 2017. China’s massive population is churning out heaps of new drivers everyday, making it the primary growth market for many global brands. Combine that with the country’s aggressive push into green cars — with a public that is perpetually hungry for tech-laden vehicles — and CES Asia attendance was compulsory for many. Read More >

By on May 30, 2017

2017 Genesis G80 winter mountains - Image: Genesis Motors

Amid stagnating U.S. sales, a crash-dive in China, and a product lineup not optimally suited for growth, Hyundai is furiously crafting a salvation plan.

In North America and other utility-loving countries, the strategy is clear: more crossovers and a significant product shakeup. The little Kona is already on the way, though perhaps not as quickly as Hyundai had hoped.

China, however, presents a serious problem for the automaker. What was supposed to be a growth market for the company has now turned into the opposite. Hyundai’s share of the market has shrunk to 5 percent from last year’s 8.1 percent, which was down from years past. In March alone, after news of South Korea’s installation of a U.S.-supplied anti-missile defense system, Hyundai and Kia sales dropped 52 percent.

Determined to make the Chinese fall back into love, the automaker has a plan brewing. Read More >

By on May 25, 2017

2016 Ford Mustang GT

The Ford Mustang, a nameplate actually deserving of the word “iconic,” is no less vulnerable to the whims of the market than any other model. As domestic light vehicle demand in North America cools off, so have Mustang sales.

Fortunately for Ford, the automaker took it upon itself to fling Mustangs to every corner of the world for its most recent generation, and buyers in 140 countries are now able to take delivery of the original pony car. That volume, while not America-like, has bolstered sales. Read More >

By on May 24, 2017

Lotus

China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Company has decided to purchase a 49.9 percent stake in Proton from Malaysian conglomerate DRB-Hicom and a majority share of the United Kingdom’s Lotus Cars.

Geely seems to have an affinity for other manufacturers and eclectic tastes — not just because it has received criticism for modeling its own cars after everything from Roll-Royce to Toyota, but because it also purchased Volvo Cars and the London Taxi Company. This could be extremely good news for Lotus, which always seems to be in a bit of a bind. Whether or not you like the idea of a Chinese company owning distinctively European brands, Geely helped Volvo come back from the brink and has committed to doing the same for Lotus.

“Reflecting our experience accumulated through Volvo Car’s revitalization, we also aim to unleash the full potential of Lotus Cars and bring it into a new phase of development by expanding and accelerating the rolling out of new products and technologies,” stated the company in its official announcement.  Read More >

By on May 23, 2017

ff_91_exterior_6

China’s Netflix equivalent, LeEco, confirmed it would be eliminating the better part of its North American workforce today. LeEco has recently gotten involved in a myriad of expensive tech-focused endeavors that have wound up screwing its finances six ways from Sunday. One of those projects was serving as the primary financial backer of America’s Faraday Future, the electric car company we’ve been scrunching our faces at for over a year now.

Faraday seems to have encountered or created every problem an automotive startup could imagine and, with its primary source of income shrinking its U.S. employee base by 70 percent, things have never looked worse.  Read More >

By on May 16, 2017

[Image: BYD]

For those of you not glued to the latest in Chinese electric car news, the BYD (Build Your Dreams) E6 was the best-selling electric vehicle in the world’s most populous country last year. Forget about Nissan or Tesla — BYD is the real electric stud overseas.

The E6 is a conventional-looking four-door crossover (or tall hatch, if you prefer) offered in a number of markets, including the United States. However, here the E6 is marketed as an “electric taxi” and offered only to fleet buyers. A handful have arrived already, but the Berkshire Hathaway-backed automaker has larger plans for the U.S. Read More >

By on May 8, 2017

Humvee

Bob Lutz And Henrik Fisker’s feisty Michigan-based VLF Automotive is bringing the H1 back to the masses — provided they don’t reside in North America. Lutz has struck a deal with Humvee Export, a small collective of off-road enthusiasts and entrepreneurs in Saint Clair, Michigan to assemble the trucks using GM powertrains at VLF’s petite factory in Auburn Hills.

Even though General Motors abandoned the Hummer brand in 2010, and H1 assembly in 2006, AM General has continued production of the High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle for allied military use. It has also begun offering a C-Series kit to private citizens for $60,000 in 2013, which includes the HMMWV platform minus a powertrain. Seeing an opportunity, Humvee Export began ordering C-Series kits that same year — finishing them off for sale in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. In 2017, they branched out to include export to China and are enlisting VLF in order to expand production.  Read More >

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