Automakers' China Push Comes With a Risk … of Offending

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

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.

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • S is for Supra S is for Supra on Mar 08, 2016

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

  • Laserwizard Laserwizard on Mar 10, 2016

    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.

    • VoGo VoGo on Mar 10, 2016

      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.

  • JK I grew up with Dodge trucks in the US, and now live in Turin, Italy, the home of Fiat. I don't think Italians view this as an Italian company either. There are constant news articles and protests about how stalantis is moving operations out of Italy. Jeep is strangely popular here though. I think last time I looked at stelantis's numbers, Jeep was the only thing saving them from big big problems.
  • Bd2 Oh yeah, funny how Trumpers (much less the Orange Con, himself) are perfectly willing to throw away the Constitution...
  • Bd2 Geeze, Anal sure likes to spread his drivelA huge problem was Fisher and his wife - who overspent when they were flush with cash and repeatedly did things ad hoc and didn't listen to their employees (who had more experience when it came to auto manufacturing, engineering, etc).
  • Tassos My Colleague Mike B bought one of these (the 300 SEL, same champagne color) new around June 1990. I thought he paid $50k originally but recently he told me it was $62k. At that time my Accord 1990 Coupe LX cost new, all included, $15k. So today the same car means $150k for the S class and $35k-40k for the Accord. So those %0 or 62k , these were NOT worthless, Idiot Joe Biden devalued dollars, so he paid AN ARM AND A LEG. And he babied the car, he really loved it, despite its very weak I6 engine with a mere 177 HP and 188 LBFT, and kept it forever. By the time he asked me to drive it (to take him to the dealer because his worthless POS Buick Rainier "SUV" needed expensive repairs (yes, it was a cheap Buick but he had to shell out thousands), the car needed a lot of suspension work, it drove like an awful clunker. He ended up donating it after 30 years or so. THIS POS is no different, and much older. Its CHEAPSKATE owner should ALSO donate it to charity instead of trying to make a few measly bucks off its CARCASS. Pathetic!
  • RHD The re-paint looks like it was done with a four-inch paintbrush. As far as VWs go, it's a rebadged Seat... which is still kind of a VW, made in Mexico from a Complete Knock-Down kit. 28 years in Mexico being driven like a flogged mule while wearing that ridiculous rear spoiler is a tough life, but it has actually survived... It's unique (to us), weird, funky (very funky), and certainly not worth over five grand plus the headaches of trying to get it across the border and registered at the local DMV.
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