Automakers' China Push Comes With a Risk … of Offending

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
automakers china push comes with a risk 8230 of offending

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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3 of 34 comments
  • 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.

  • Lou_BC ERay? A southern model will be the BillyRay.
  • Lou_BC I've never used a car buying plan service. My Costco membership did get me 1,000 cash back on my last truck.
  • Jeff S I can understand 8 cars is a bit much unless you are a serious collector. I always loved the Challenger when it first came out and now. I don't need a car like this but I am glad it exists at least for 1 more year. If I had a choice between a Mustang, a Camaro, and a Challenger I would opt for a Challenger but probably with a V-6 since it has more than enough power for most and I don't need to be burning rubber. Challenger has the classic muscle car looks, more cabin room, and a decent size trunk which makes it very livable for day to day driving and for traveling. The base models of the Dodge Challenger has a 3.6-liter V6 engine that gives you 305 horsepower with 268 lb-ft torque. The car attains 60 mph from a standstill within just 6 seconds, which is quite fast. Even with their base engines, the Challenger and Camaro are lightning-fast. The Camaro reaches 165 mph, while the Challenger can go up to 11 mph faster!
  • Inside Looking Out I would avoid American cities if I can. European cities are created for humans and Americans for cars.
  • Inside Looking Out I used True car once in 2014 and got a great deal. The difference is that you do nothing but dealers call you. No haggling but you can get the same deal browsing inventories on dealers websites. It just matter of convenience, Rich people delegate job to someone else because time costs more.