The new Hongqi H7 debuted in April on the Beijing Auto Show. At the time however nobody was allowed to look inside, the four H7’s at the show had their doors locked and Hongqi-staff simply refused to open them. Fortunately I found a fine Hongqi H7 at a police equipment show in Beijing last week and this time the doors were wide open.
When looking closely I could kinda understand why Hongqi was so secretive at the Beijing Auto Show. The materials used in the H7 are just not good enough. The plastic and wood loox cheap and it just isn’t very well put together. This is a car that has to compete with the Audi A6, BMW 5, Benz E and Volvo S80…
The Hongqi H7 is based on the Toyota Crown that is made in China by the FAW-Toyota joint venture, FAW is also the owner of the Hongqi brand. Engines: FAW’s own 2.0 turbo and Toyota’s 2.5 V5 and 3.0 V6. Earlier on we heard the H7 would be launched on the Chinese car market in July. New reports however indicate it will be launched in October. Maybe they need more time to finish the interior?
Enough leg room but again not very well made. Look at the carpet for example, how it is draped around the middle tunnel, which is also very high, thanks to the ancient Crown-design. This particular H7 was a very basic 2.0, no fancy screens or anything else that could be called a luxury. The H7 was at the police exhibition because FAW hopes to sell many H7’s to local-government agencies, whose fleet managers go to this kind of exhibitions to shop for police cars.
… but the grill is very good.
Interesting note – At the Beijing autoshow, the majority of manufacturers who had locked their cars and didn’t allow people to sit inside were Chinese brands. The guys who were letting everyone check out their latest models regardless of cost/ how new they are to the market *including cars such the 300k euro G63 AMG) were the foreign manufacturers.
Time for a lecture…
The Chinese automotive industry has an inferiority complex – they don’t have the confidence to face judgement on their latest vehicles even from the market in which they are selling most of their vehicles.
There has been talk since years that ‘China is catching up’, that ‘the world markets will be flooded by cheap Chinese cars’ and that China will develop its auto industry much quicker and more efficiently than Japan and Korea previously. However, the fundemental fact is that there is no motivation by these Manufacturers to develop truely world-class cars, regardless of the knee-jerk policies of a Government which is out of touch with the industry (hence these insigificant JV sub-brands, the ‘forced’ electrification policies without the real organisation and investment into infrastructure needed for people to have confidence to buy EVs etc).
Also, Chinese automotive manufacturers have gotten such a free ride in generating capital from JVs that it just doesn’t pay off to invest the R&D to generate their own know-how – its a smaller return on investment, especially when the option is coordinating with the foreign partner to ramp-up production to meet demand for the foreign models which sell like hotcakes in comparision. Of course, you get guys like FAW-VW refering to the VWs and Audis they build as ‘their cars’ or ‘Chinese cars’, but the reality is far from such. Even models which have been ‘developed by the JV alone’ such as the Sagitar have had so much input (and hence money paid to) in testing and engineering from the foreign partner that the situation is far from the ‘technology transfer’ paradise that the Chinese government fantisized about when they set up this policy. A visit to FAW-VW’s testing facilites says a lot when you see the dust covering the expensive, state-of-the-art German testing equipment they bought there since months ago…
Anyways, thats it for now folks!
Completely true and on the ball. Perfect explanation for the Chinese market and how the gov’t and the Communist system does not motivate the companies at all
The private companies are hungry enough to do things themselves even if they don’t have the capital resources the SOEs may have
Thanks a lot! Adding:
– it is mostly the typical state-owned car companies that don’t want to open their cars on auto shows. semi-private and independent companies like BYD, Geely and Chery are much easier about it and basically show everything.
– at this year’s Beijing show Hongqi was clearly afraid those horrible foreign journalist would see how bad the H7 was. The new Roewe 950 was also very closed, it was even displayed on a sorta island with real water protecting it from sneaky photographers.Roewe didn’t want journalist to see the 950 is nothing but a rebadged Buick. And so on an on…
– it is true that Chinese state-owned car factories are terrified by foreign journalists. They are simply not used to dealing with them. Try to find someone who speaks English, or English information. Very hard…
– when a car is formally launched on the Chinese car market, car makers usually organize a lavish party to celebrate, with pop stars singing and all sorta VIP’s jumping around. but they never, ever, invite foreign journalists. they know we are here, but it just won’t happen. scared again…
– especially car makers involved in joint ventures simply seem unable to develop their own platforms. much of the money they earn goes directly to the local or provincial governments who own the car makers. these governments can use the money for whatever they want, and that usually does not include developing new platforms when they can also get old foreign platforms on the cheap.
Absolutely true–locking of car at show is laughable and immature–true, some people want to destroy cars at the show–when I was working for Volvo, at a show, a young kid just wanted to mark up our car–just for the heck of it.
But the above is the exception.
Regardless, it is futile–people are not dumb. If you build a good product and sell at a reasonable price, they will buy.
The Japanese and Koreans paid their dues, it seems like these Chinese bureaucrats do not want to. Will never make it to first tier with this approach.
Look at the Koreans with Hyundai–from a car that no one wanted except those who can’t afford a used car to what it is today.