Hongqi L5 under spotlight at APEC meeting

By Liang Fei Source:Global Times Published: 2014-11-14 5:03:06

Homegrown luxury brand serves as state leaders’ ride

A Hongqi L5 limousine Photo: CFP

China's homegrown luxury auto brand Hongqi, which means red flag, has come under the spotlight as it has been chosen as the official vehicle to gather visiting state leaders during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Beijing, which concluded on Tuesday.

The Hongqi L5 limousine was the official vehicle for all visiting state leaders during the APEC meeting except US President Barack Obama, who rode in a Cadillac sedan as always. The Hongqi H7 sedan has been used to transport other attending delegates.

When the APEC meeting was held in Shanghai in 2001, the Buick model produced by the joint venture between Shanghai-based SAIC Motor Corp and General Motors was the official ride for attending delegates.

The Hongqi L5, with a vintage exterior, bears a great resemblance to cars from the 1950s, and fuses many Chinese traditional elements in its design, such as a small piece of jade that has been set in the door handles.

But in order to provide a better ride quality and to guarantee safety, the car is equipped with various modern facilities such as a 6.0L aluminum motor, 15.3-inch liquid crystal display panel, in-car TV, as well as bullet-proof windows.

The model, produced by Jilin-based FAW Group Corp, is 5,555mm in length, 2,018mm in width and 1,578mm in height, and wheelbase of the car is 3,435mm - much roomier than most luxury sedans, according to information on the company's website.

The history

The first Hongqi car was produced by FAW Group in 1958, prompted by the Chinese government's call for the country to make its own cars. The car was once the official ride for China's top leaders, including Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.

Production of the brand was shut down in 1981 because of the high cost and low fuel efficiency, but was resumed later in 1991.

The Hongqi L5 made its debut in April 2013 when it was used as the official concierge car for the state visit of French President Francois Hollande to China. In April this year, the company showcased the model at the Beijing auto show and launched pre-orders for it.

A PR staffer at the company told the Global Times that price of the pre-orders are 5 million yuan ($816,299), and it will take six months to deliver the car once an order is placed. But the employee did not disclose the sales numbers of the L5 or its H7 models.

Since the Hongqi is the sole luxury homegrown auto brand, both the government and the company have placed high hopes on it. Media reported that the company has invested some 5.2 billion yuan in reviving the brand and more models will be rolled out in the next few years.

But experts remain bearish for the car's market prospects. "The Hongqi L5 is too pricey for official use and I also don't think it will have big market potential in the consumer market," Zeng Zhiling, general manager of LMC Automotive Consulting in Shanghai, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Recent local media reports confirmed that the Hong­qi H7 sedan, priced between 299,800 yuan to 479,800 yuan, has reported sales of just 4,600 units since the vehicle was launched in May 2013.

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