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      07-02-2006, 05:42 PM   #1
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China's Stunning Car Boom

China's Stunning Car Boom
Car Culture In China Taking Off

State subsidies keep the price of gas down, currently just above $2 a gallon.
Meanwhile, state-run Sinopec will soon be teaming up with McDonald's to build drive-through restaurants at filling stations


Ted Conover/July 2, 2006, Sunday Magazine, NewYork Times

The figures behind China's car boom are stunning. Total miles of highway in the country: at least 23,000, more than double what existed in 2001, and second now only to the United States. Number of passenger cars on the road: about 6 million in 2000 and about 20 million today. Car sales are up 54 percent in the first three months of 2006, compared with the same period a year ago; every day, 1,000 new cars (and 500 used ones) are sold in Beijing. The astronomic growth of China's car-manufacturing industry will soon hit home for Americans and Europeans as dirt-cheap Chinese automobiles start showing up for sale here over the next two or three years. (Think basic passenger car for $10,000, luxury S.U.V. for $19,000.)

But of course the story is not only about construction and production; car culture is taking root in China, and in many ways it looks like ours. City drivers, stuck in ever-growing jams, listen to traffic radio. They buy auto magazines with titles like The King of Cars, AutoStyle, China Auto Pictorial, Friends of Cars, Whaam ("The Car The Street The Travel The Racing"). Two dozen titles now compete for space in kiosks. The McDonald's Corporation said last month that it expects half of its new outlets in China to be drive-throughs. Whole zones of major cities, like the Asian Games Village area in Beijing, have been given over to car lots and showrooms.

In other ways, though, the Chinese are still figuring cars out and doing things their way. Take the phrase used to describe our expedition: "self-driving trip." It is called self-driving to contrast it with the more customary idea of driving in China: that someone else drives you. Until recently, everyone important enough to own a car was also important enough to have his or her own driver. Traditions grew up around this, like the chauffeur joining his boss at the table for meals while on duty something still commonly seen.

But those practices are growing fusty. What are new and explosively popular are car clubs some organized around the idea of travel, like the Beijing Target Auto Club, and others organized around the idea of. . .well, simply fun. The Beijing VW Polo Club, for example, has an active Web site and hundreds of youthful members. (The Polo is a VW model popular in Europe and Latin America and now manufactured in China as well.) Club members meet regularly to learn about maintenance, deliver toys to orphans and take weekend pleasure drives reminiscent of America in the 30's and 40's. To celebrate the 2008 Beijing Olympics, four-dozen members recently turned up in a giant parking lot to form the Olympic logo with their compact, candy-colored cars, each circle a different hue. Single members have found mates in the club, and at least one of their weddings featured an all-Polo procession through the streets of Beijing.

In the West, cars can still excite, but the family car soon becomes part of the furniture. In China, however, it's nothing of the sort. Li Anding, author of two books on the car in China and the country's leading automotive journalist, told me why when he invited me to join some of his industry pals for dinner in Beijing. "The desire for cars here is as strong as in America, but here the desire was repressed for half a century," he began. All private cars were confiscated shortly after the Communists came into power in 1949, supposedly because they were symbols of the capitalist lifestyle. Having a car became the exclusive privilege of party officials.

That didn't last long. By 2000, enough regulations had been removed, and enough people were making money, that car ownership became a reality for many Chinese for the first time. Li Anding, born in 1949, the year the Communists came to power, said he was still astonished at the change: "When I started writing about cars, I never expected to see private cars in China in my generation, much less some of the world's fanciest cars, being driven every day."


For More >http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/02/ma...=1&oref=slogin
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      07-02-2006, 05:51 PM   #2
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OMG- Look at the color of the sky in the first pic...
I guess you could assume it was a cloudy day..Yes?
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      07-05-2006, 02:25 PM   #3
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At a recent auction in Guangzhou, one plate featuring several lucky numbers fetched more than $10,000.


First Comes the Car, Then the $10,000 License Plate

Superstition and Car Culture Meld in China's Burgeoning Automobile Explosion

GUANGZHOU, China At a government auction inside a dingy gymnasium, a young businessman named Ding walked away a happy winner the other day. Like everyone else, he was bidding on license plates and did not seem to mind that his cost $6,750.

For the same money, Mr. Ding could almost have afforded two of the Chinese-made roadsters popular in the domestic car market. His bid was almost 20 times what a Chinese farmer earns in a year, and almost 7 times the country's per capita annual income.

And yet, in the auction in this manufacturing capital in southern China, Mr. Ding, who gave only his last name, could not even claim top price. The most expensive plate AC6688 fetched $10,000 on a day when officials sold hundreds of plates for a total of $366,500.

"I thought it was rather cheap," said Mr. Ding, 30, a gold chain glinting under his open black sport shirt, as he walked off with the paperwork for APY888. "Since I have a nice car, I thought I should get a nice plate."

No country is more bonkers over cars than China, where achieving the new middle-class dream means owning a shiny new vehicle. But the car is not always enough for those who aspire beyond the middle class. A license plate has become almost as much of a status symbol as the car.

The reason is the potent blend of new-money aspirations and Old World superstitions. For centuries, numbers have served as a second language in China. The unluckiest number, 4, or si, which can also mean death in Chinese, is so dreaded that some buildings have no fourth floor. The luckiest number is 8, or ba, which rhymes with fa, the Chinese character for wealth. It is no coincidence that the Summer Olympics in Beijing will open on 8/8/08 at 8 p.m.



More > http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/05/wo...a/05china.html
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      07-05-2006, 06:08 PM   #4
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Interesting articles, thanks for sharing. Imagine how big of an automotive market China will be in the future as the middle-class grows larger and larger.

As an aside, just read an article that potentially up to 3 chinese car manufacturers will have exhibits at next year's Detroit auto show.
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      07-05-2006, 06:49 PM   #5
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Thanks Harold- the automobile in China is such an overwhelming phenomenon...I really don't know what to make of it.

On the one hand its so great that the Chinese have raised their standard of living- on the other..
well, the drain of oil and gas that China now needs must be raising some eyebrows somewhere...
to follow up on what you were saying;what happens when China has twice the amount of cars as the U.S.? Or 3x or 4x?
How can this exponential kind of demand be satisfied?
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      07-05-2006, 08:22 PM   #6
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Good point, with world oil prices already skyhigh prices, it's scary to think of the upward pressure that the automotive boom (and general higher standard of living overall) in china will eventually have on oil prices.

Here's the article on the chinese automakers displaying at Detroit.
http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll...607050364/1148
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      07-05-2006, 09:37 PM   #7
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Yes, that's exactly what I'm thinking.

That sky in the background of the first pic is scary...it reminds me of a couple years ago when we vacationed in Maine- beautiful..wonderful.
Anyway I had to drop members of the family off at Logan Airport in Boston on our return....about 30 miles out of Boston the sky over the city was a dark yellowish grey.
It just sat there like a big ugly cloud.
Never seen anything like it..not even in Los Angeles on the occassions I've been there..
the China auto-boom is cool now-I'm not sure about what happens when the U.S., Europe, Japan, Korea & China are bidding on oil prices in the most unstable part of the world....
especially with China and Japan basically keeping the dollar afloat.

Thanks for the link.
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      07-09-2006, 02:18 PM   #8
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Reuters / July 7, 2006 - 7:00 am

SHANGHAI -- BMW AG said on Friday its sales in China and Taiwan rose 55.8 percent in the first half of 2006 from a year earlier, due largely to robust demand in the mainland.


The world's largest premium carmaker delivered 21,582 vehicles in the region, with sales in mainland China alone totaling 16,833 units, up 78.4 percent, it said in a statement.

Sales of imported models came to 6,271 units during the six-month period, up 162.1 percent from a year earlier, it added.

BMW, which counts DaimlerChrysler's Mercedes-Benz as one of its main competitors in the world's second-largest auto market, runs a venture in the northeastern city of Shenyang with Brilliance China Automotive Holdings Ltd., where it produces the BMW 3 series and 5 series.

Chinese media has reported BMW expansion plans for the venture's capacity, now at 30,000 units per year. But CEO Helmut Panke told Reuters in June that talks with the Chinese partner had not started yet.

Just as a point of comparison > BMW sold 24,688 vehicles in the month of May/006 just in the U.S. alone according to the most recently published sales statistics.
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