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'National sedan' seeking to regain high-end image


13:05, July 01, 2013

A model presents a Hongqi H7 car at the 2013 China (Tianjin) International Automobile Industry Exhibition in Tianjin, north China, April 27, 2013. (Xinhua/Zhai Jianlan)

CHANGCHUN, July 1 (Xinhua) -- The Hongqi H7, a new luxury car model made by China FAW Group, is catching the eye as the company continues its attempts to rejuvenate the brand.

In the Jingyuetan National Forest Park in Changchun, northeastern China's Jilin Province, where test driving of the car takes place, tourists want to know more about the model and its cost.

Despite the interest, makers of the "national sedan," know the car still has a long and bumpy road ahead to regain the image as a competitive high-end car brand.

Zhang Xiaojun, president of FAW Car Sales Company -- a subsidiary of China FAW -- told Xinhua Sunday that more than 1,000 Hongqi H7 have been purchased by government departments with more than 100 sold to individual buyers.

The first H7 came off the production line in July 2012 and cars were part of a procurement package with the government. The company officially put the model to the private market on May 30, this year.

Zhang said the H7 is a major part of the "Hongqi Revival" project, launched in 2008, to rejuvenate the brand and build it to become a model for China's independently-owned high-end car.

The company has invested 5.2 billion yuan (841.6 million U.S. dollars) into research and development and produced two types of high-end vehicles - the L and H series.

"The glorious image of Hongqi's brand has become vague in people's minds," Zhang said.

Dating back to 1958, Hongqi has been used by national leaders at major celebrations, as well as to carry important foreign guests including U.S. president Richard Nixon during his ice-breaking visit to China in 1972.

But due to high fuel consumption and costs, FAW was ordered by the government to cease production in 1981.

Several attempts to revive the Hongqi brand between the 1990s to 2008 failed partly due to the lack of independent technologies.

Using technologies developed under the project, the H7 is equipped with an independently-developed engine, chassis and transmission.

The company said it owned complete intellectual property rights for the vehicle.

The H7 model is now enjoying an edge over its overseas rivals on the government procurement market, which has been dominated by foreign brands like Volkswagen, Audi and Buick.

A draft catalog of car models for government procurement released last year included only domestic vehicles.

Zhang said if the Hongqi brand wants to be successful, both government procurement and the private market are important.

"Private buyers are even more important as the size of government procurement is relatively small," he said.

Gao Xudong, a professor with Tsinghua University, believed that government procurement will help the brand to foster a better image and drive up sales in the private market.

Zhang said the company should not only build on its historical high-end image, but also create more distribution channels to provide a high-quality service for consumers.

The company has nine exhibition centers and 10 exclusive service centers for the vehicle in the country.

Gao said Hongqi has realized the significance of independent technologies, branding, quality and after-sales service.

"Although nurturing a brand can be time-consuming, it is fair to say that Hongqi is entering a positive cycle of development," Gao said.

Email|Print|Comments(Editor:ChenLidan、Gao Yinan)

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