Some recent developments in the Chinese light-vehicle market
If you have a few extra hours to spend at Stansted because flight FU 436 has been indefinitely delayed and you find Departure Gate 199 is becoming your home from home, you might be tempted to wander over to a newsagent to browse among the motoring titles to relieve the boredom.
Let’s say that out of desperation you buy a copy of each of the leading monthly titles, in search of balance and variety. On the cover of each slab of glossy paper you are very likely to find the same car given top billing. And within the covers of Top Clarkson you’ll discover the same six or seven vehicles given a colourless 450 word rundown in the “New Drives” sections, with perhaps a few exceptions due to vehicles carried over from the month before.
But not only is there much similarity of content when we cross-compare the cream of the automotive monthly press. Were you to read just one journal on a regular basis you might be forgiven for thinking that the range of vehicles available to the consumer centred on the BMW 3-series (from spyshot to run-out special), the Porsche 911 or some manner of Ferrari. Instead of, say, a report on the Fiat Grand Siena (“O Sedã ganhou um estilo próprio, que privilegia sua beleza sofisticada com toques de esportividade.”) we get will get a report on the Audi A3 cabriolet, for example, a car so predictable that if you’d asked me beforehand I would have said it already existed, since about 2007.
Month on month the same names crop up, as if the only places to which airlines flew were Ingolstadt, Stuttgart, Modena or Birmingham International. The monotony of the content ignores the fact that people do go out and buy other vehicles now and then and might even be interested in vehicles they will not and can not purchase.
The myopia of the mainstream motoring press is such that if a space alien was to base its view of the motoring market upon the contents of three magazines stolen from a delayed airline passenger then they might come to some strange conclusions. Among them would be the idea that the motoring world consists predominantly of lightly to extremely sporty cars from the middle part of continental Europe and the Midlands of the United Kingdom.
But this is a region of the world where there is a slow but steady die-off of autodiversity, one decades old. Over on the other side of the planet (I mean China) there is an explosion of automotive creativity about which we hear almost zero, to say nothing of the confections dreamed up to supply North Americans, South Americans, the Japanese and New Zealanders (and their neighbours too). Right now there is the automotive equivalent of the Burgess shale to be explored but instead of fossilised wonders there are rolling, combusting products in the prime of their lives.
As a small hint of this undiscovered land from whose bourn no UK journalist reports I would like to draw your attention to some recent developments in the Chinese light vehicle market. Here is the 2010 Gonow Mini van (above), The Gonow firm is only a decade old and already has a back-catalogue of 20 vehicles none of which have been the subject of a test by a British motoring journal.
Here is what Gonow have to say about the Way (and this quote is verbatim): “Face masks: Handsome front face with streamlined body, and decorated crystal headlights,which make you become the focus at any where. Highlighted front, big smile face, traditional apperance of minivan, leading the minvan industry, and to create a classic legend.
360° security: Tough body is made of import steel, which is the one by stamping one-time, strengthen the capacity of the side crash, the high strenth front bumper beam, always ensure your safety. Collapsing structure of the body design, the high strength front bumper beam, the high plasticity and absorbing energy cabin structure, thicken, reinforced doors, the arc-shaped design of center console, 360°security at every where.”
The most important facts to burn in your memory are that the top speed is 120 km per hour, it weighs 1020 kilos and is 3.7 metres long, shorter than a Ford Fiesta* (the dashboard of which the Gonow’s seems to resemble). If you’re interested, a brand new Way is available for €7800 from a dealer in Kassel.
I have no idea how this vehicle comports itself at 9/10s and since the not-inconsiderable resources of Driven to Write sadly do not include a China correspondent, it will be hard to arrange a test. We also lack a correspondent covering the Kassel region (CVs requested, please). For the moment I hope the picture serves to whet your appetite for the world beyond the limited confines of the mainstream automotive press.
*Ford treat the Fiesta’s specification as a secret. The spec sheet is buried deep in the Ford UK website and despite opening two different browsers, could not be accessed. However, hackers from http://www.carpages.co.uk have ferreted out the data where it was shown on a normal web-page and not a PDF. I salute you, carpages.