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Cars of China

Where are all the Ford Escapes and Maserati Gran Turismos?

I’ve never seen so many Buicks in my life. Weird, right? Who would’ve thought that Buick would be the most popular recognizable car brand on the roads in China! When I was abroad, I was taking a class called Marketing Management in East Asia and Emerging Markets. The course focused on the macro environmental trends that influence Chinese consumer behavior.

I learned that unless a company had a joint venture in China, it was very hard to succeed. This is why Buick and Audi were so popular, GM and Volkswagen both have joint ventures in China. I actually had the opportunity to visit a VW factory while I was there!

The most popular cars on the road, however, were Chinese brands, most of which were electric as well. Many people know that Shanghai is one of the most polluted cities in the world. I didn’t understand the severity until I noticed the sky turned a funky pink color every night at dusk. My teacher explained this was due to air pollution. In particular, auto exhaust emissions account for 70% of the country’s air pollution.

The Chinese government has capitalized on some pretty impressive initiatives in an attempt to go green(er), however. They’ve invested $300 million in new energy vehicle development. Also, the government charges over $10,000 for a license plate in China, yet if you buy an electric car they’ll pay for your license plate. That said, electric car brands like AIWAYS, AOXIN and BYD are most common.

There were other brands on the road as well, but they were very sparse. I would say, Porsche and BMW were the next most common. I saw just two Mustangs and one Ford Focus the entire trip! Due to the still-present Sino-Japanese tension sparked by World War II, I saw very few Toyota, Honda, or Mazda models.

If you haven’t already, check out my recap of my Volkswagen Factory Tour and stay to read about how I learned the rules of the road in China!

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