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Sedan becomes minister's car

By CHENG YINGQI  (China Daily)

08:42, June 18, 2013

Choice of Hongqi H7 seen as sign of official shift to domestic models

Foreign Minister Wang Yi has turned to a Hongqi H7 sedan as his official car, which experts said is a sign Chinese officials are setting their sights on national brands.

Wang's sedan was put into use on Monday, according to the ministry's official micro blog. The message was forwarded more than 2,500 times in three hours, and was quoted by major Chinese media.

The Hongqi H7 sedan, priced at between 299,800 yuan ($48,950) and 479,800 yuan, is a newly developed sedan of the First Automobile Works Group Corp, marketed to officials at the ministerial level or above.

FAW's share price rose abruptly after 1:05 pm, when the news broke.

"Government officials should have used domestic cars earlier," said Huang Shengmin, director of the School of Advertising of the Communication University of China.

"China's domestic automobile industry was weak. The government has been trying to promote the production of the industry. So officials should set examples for consumers through their own actions," he said.

Huang said the foreign minister is unique because people tend to pay more attention to his clothing and cars.

Most of China's official cars are foreign made, despite the 2002 Government Procurement Law stipulating that domestic brands should be purchased.

In 2012, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology published an official car procurement manual, which included more than 400 different Chinese-made cars.

"Consumers may be able to choose between a domestic brand or a foreign brand, but government procurement, which uses taxpayers' money, should not have options other than domestic products," said Wang Yong, secretary-general of Brand China Industry Union.

"The case is not unique to China. I visited the US, France, Germany and Japan, and all the official cars were local brands," he said.

However, Jia Xinguang, a senior researcher of the Automotive Industry Development Institute, said the foreign minister's choice has more political significance than actual meaning for the industry.

"Even if all the officials at ministerial level or above use national brands, they are too limited in number to revitalize the whole industry," Jia said, adding that officials at lower levels could buy foreign cars.

On the other hand, he noted that since the Hongqi H7 sedan is designed for officials, few people would turn to it when choosing a family car.

"The design of Hongqi H7 sedan, suitable for official use, is elegant, while most consumers would choose cars that have a more luxurious appearance and more comfortable interior design," Jia said.

He said that foreign brands have advantages over domestic brands because of their better management.

Li Fangfang contributed to this story.



• On Aug 1, 1958

The first Hongqi model, a CA72, was introduced by FAW Group, a State-owned automaker with headquarters in Jilin province.

Equipped with a 200 horsepower engine and the classic Hongqi fanlike grille, the CA72 was one of the first cars made in China by a domestic manufacturer.

One year later two more Hongqi CA72 sedans were manufactured and sent to Beijing to join the country's 10th National Day celebrations.

• In 1964

The Hongqi brand was designated as the official vehicle for visiting heads of state.

The car did not change much until 1965 when the CA770 was introduced and later other models, including a stretched armored limousine with three rows of seating.

• In 1969

By beating the ZIS-115, a Russian-built car, in a driving contest, Hongqi cars were designated as the official vehicles for the National Day parade, a tradition that has remained.

• In 1981

Production of Hongqi luxury cars was ordered to be halted, due to high oil consumption.

• On March 22, 1993

FAW Group resumed production, making its first Hongqi sedan in a decade. The car was bought by a private businessman in Zhejiang province.

• In 1994

After the debut of the Hongqi CA7220, the brand once manufactured in small numbers and designed for the use of top officials, started mass production.

• In 2013

The H7, the newest member of the Hongqi family, came off the production line.

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