There’s a gold rush in China’s automobile market, it would seem, judging by the huge array of new vehicles presented at Auto China 2014 in Beijing.
The organizers promised that more than 1,000 new models - including over 100 world premieres - can be on display at the Beijing International Exhibition Center, where the show opened for the public Monday and runs through April 29.
Gold is also available in the cars themselves, though not only could there be gold to be mined from Chinese consumers, who bought more than 20 million vehicles last year. bumpers, paint, just, Wheels, grilles and trim about every touch point were likely to be finished in gold tones and accents.
Automakers have latched to the trend and met the demand. By way of example, Jeep introduced four design studies tailored to the public’s tastes. Each offered ornate golden trim, door handles, pinstriping and other bits - garnishes not usually found on vehicles outfitted for off-road abuse.
Ford unveiled a brand new Escort - elongated like a stretch limousine - and finished from bumper to bumper inside a toasty golden brown. Among the more unusual vehicles in Beijing were modified Ford pickups and conversion vans. Presented by local customizers, though these folks were Fords.
“We don’t sell pickups in China,” Anderson Chan, a Ford spokesman said in an email. “But you will find a car modification firm called Star Custom which showed modified Ford E-Series vans.”
Once they had result from an “A Team” fever dream, with golden trim and wood running boards, the trucks were tweaked to evince Humvee-style battlewagons, and the conversion vans were finished as. Next, to one of Star Customs’ glittering offerings, even a gold-chain-festooned Mr. T might have seemed subtle.
But perhaps Rolls-Royce topped every one of them, with its red and gold Pinnacle Travel Phantom, meant to evoke an era of lavish rail travel with an interior reminiscent of an Orient Express parlor car. Dashboard murals of inlaid wood depict a speeding steam train crossing a continental landscape.
Volkswagen, the country’s most favored brand exceeding 3.2 million cars delivered this past year, unveiled three important new models: a refreshed Touareg S.U.V.; a 395-horsepower Golf R 400 hatchback, the latest Golf ever; and a sleek New Midsize Coupe concept.
Although versions of the same cars will be sold worldwide, the models introduced here were finished in especially rococo fashion for that Chinese market.
“Indeed, bright colors and glossy materials -silver and chrome, gold - matter,” Christian Buhlmann, a Volkswagen spokesman, said within an email. “Seat materials are needed to be softer than in other markets. But many relevant: Interior space. That may be more important than engine size or power. Therefore, we offer some vehicles like Tiguan, Passat, Audi A4 and A6 in long-wheelbase versions.”
He added: You will discover a tendency towards S.U.V.s, though “From compact class to luxury full-size, sedans are the majority. The one-child policy has many exceptions now; therefore there is need for six or seven seats.”
Moreover, he noted, extra room is needed for grandparents, because many families travel along with them riding within the rear seats.
The necessity of the China market to automakers can not be overstated. “Roughly 30 percent of VW’s overall volume on a global basis originates from Chinese market sales,” Mr. Buhlmann said. “China is our No. 1 market for both Phaeton and Touareg.”
He added: “The group is market leader in China; we run 17 plants in two joint ventures and expect to deliver 3.5 million vehicles this year.”
Even a small-volume luxury automaker such as Rolls-Royce already has 15 dealerships in China, with another eight within the planning stages.
But the gold rush seems to be tapering off rapidly for China’s domestic automakers. During 2010, the domestics accounted for over 50 percent of sales. Through 2013, their market share fell to less than forty percent.
Among the concerns of prospective buyers were that domestic models fell short inquality and reliability, fuel economy, resale and emissions value compared with foreign brands.