Hong Qi (Red Flag) Limousines Driven In National Day Parade Provoke Speculation Among China Car Watchers
This week, during China’s National Day parade, many viewers saw for the first time China’s first (and some would say only) luxury car brand — Hong Qi (Red Flag) — in action, carrying President Hu Jintao and Lieutenant General Fang Fenghui to Tian’anmen. For people unfamiliar with China’s exclusive home-grown luxury vehicle — generally reserved only for top leaders — what’s beneath the hood of Hong Qi’s newest model?
China Car Times takes a look:
Information on the cars used in this years National Day celebrations is thin on the ground, we have learned that they measure 6.4 meters long, 2.05 meters wide and are 1.72 meters high, and with power being delivered by a V12 engine. The cars were considered state secrets during their development and were all hand made by First Automobile Workers in Changchun.
First Automobile Works was created during China’s first five year plan (1953 – 1957).to create an independent auto mobile industry that would be able to produce trucks and buses to free China from reliance on the then USSR. The Hong Qi brand was set up to provide state limosuines to government departments in the early sixties, previously Chinese dignitaries had to use captured American made Willy’s Jeeps, open air trucks or Soviet made limousines from which to address the military or the people. Since then Hong Qi has become a semi luxury brand for FAW, with FAW’s partnership with Audi, FAW was able to produce the Audi 80, 100 and 200 under the Hong Qi brand and provide a semi luxurious car brand to private buyers and companies across China during the 90’s.
Hong Qi has failed to innovate in the past few years with new independent development of cars, but yesterday’s unveiling of the latest generation of state limousines shows Hong Qi still has what it takes to produce a limousine that takes on modern styling, but keeps the traditional styling of past state limousines.
According to Xinhua, the new model represents an effort on the part of Hong Qi to incorporate design features that resonate with a Chinese audience:
Chinese features were evident in the design, said Guo Shijun, head of the Hongqi manufacture department of FAW.
“For instance, the radiator grille was in the shape of a Chinese folding fan, and the taillight was like an ancient palace lantern,” he said.
With China’s domestic car industry rushing to develop luxury vehicles that will appeal to Chinese buyers and rival the dominance of BMW and Mercedes in the China market, it’s a shame that Hong Qi, a brand with the know-how and, yes, the pedigree to build cars that the high-powered executives targeted by Geely (with the GE model) seem uninterested in going beyond their core market of top-level government officials. A brand spin-off of Hong Qi, preserving the brand pedigree while using a new mark so as to maintain Hong Qi’s association with top officials, could be an option, and could actually become China’s first true luxury automotive brand. These are all “what-ifs,” however. If recent history is any indication, Hong Qi as a company is quite happy building what it has always built — premium limousines and cars for China’s government elite.