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Tuesday, Oct 22, 2019

Hongqi, the iconic Chinese car Xi preferred to ride on Chennai visit

In 2013, foreign minister Wang Yi abandoned his Audi A6 for the latest Hongqi H7 sedan. Soon after, local media forecast a possible new dawn for Chinese brands.

india Updated: Oct 13, 2019 01:03 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping, at Fisherman's Cove in Kovalam near Mamallapuram.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping, at Fisherman's Cove in Kovalam near Mamallapuram.(PTI)
         

The Hongqi, or the Red Flag, is Chinese President Xi Jinping’s preferred mode of transport during official visits, like the recently concluded informal summit in Chennai, or at military parades. In China, the car is often referred to as a “political” car.

A symbol of “Made in China”, Hongqi’s history dates back to 1958, when the state-owned First Automotive Works (FAW) launched it for the Communist Party of China (CPC) elite.

“The first Hongqi car, or Red Flag, was manufactured in 1958. It is one of China’s iconic sedan brands and its vehicles have been used for parades during national celebrations,” a state media report said.

In 2012, Xi directed CPC leaders to use locally-manufactured cars, rather than foreign ones.

In 2013, foreign minister Wang Yi abandoned his Audi A6 for the latest Hongqi H7 sedan. Soon after, local media forecast a possible new dawn for Chinese brands. However, only 3,000 H7s were sold in 2014. In comparison, Audi sold same number of cars in China in just two or three days, a report on China.org stated.

Jia Xinguang, an independent auto analyst in Beijing, had then told state media that Wang Yi’s preference for Hongqi H7 over foreign luxury brands was a more political decision.

FAW builds high-end cars that cater to the requirements of politicians, while automakers like Volkswagen and Toyota manufacture cars meant for the general public, he added. However, the company is making an attempt to shed its sombre image associated with the CPC elite and adapt to current trends and looks.

“The company has sped up a market-oriented reform in recent years through diversifying its product mix. It now sells six models— two sedans, two SUVs, an EV, and a customized limousine,” state news agency Xinhua stated in a report published last month.

The report added that, till August this year, the company has recorded sales of more than 52,000 vehicles, a 231% increase from last year.

First Published: Oct 13, 2019 01:02 IST

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