China And The US Have Very Different Stereotypes For The Same Cars

The Chinese auto market is a young one, but it is already the world’s biggest, and a key region for the global auto industry.

But to sell cars there, it’s more than a question of translating manuals and opening a few dealerships.

Over the last 30 years, according to the New York Times, the Chinese public has also formed some very strong opinions as to who drives a particular make and model and why — and those views are often at odds with how brands are perceived in the U.S.

For non-Chinese automakers, understanding those perceptions is key to putting more cars on the road.

[An earlier version of this article was written by Alex Davies and Travis Okulski.]

Mercedes in China: The conservative choice.

Mercedes-Benz has taken on the 'Oldsmobile' role in China. They are seen as the car of the retired, and are not a strong statement, like an Audi or BMW. They are not daring, they are not outrageous.

Buying a Mercedes is a safe, conservative choice.

Fast fact: China is Mercedes' fastest growing market, and the brand is opening more than 50 new dealerships every year.

Buick in America: Your grandparents' ride.

Buick has been trying to reinvent itself in the US for decades. While sales have improved, the brand is still working to generate excitement among younger buyers.

Fast fact: Buick incorporated in 1903 and is the oldest American automaker still selling cars.

Minivans in the US: Kid-movers.

The minivan has a well-earned reputation in the United States as the way soccer mums and dads move kids around the suburbs.

Fast fact: The Stout Scarab, the world's first production minivan, hit the road in 1936 with a removable table and seats that swiveled 180 degrees.

Minivans in China: The hot new ride for executives.

Buick's GL8 Luxury MPV is a favourite of Chinese executives.

Chinese high-powered executives have bought hundreds of thousands of the typically family-centered vehicle over the past decade, creating a surprising new luxury market, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Fast fact: In 2010, GM capitalised on the trend with the luxury version of its Buick GL8 minivan made just for China, with an interior inspired by luxury yachts, featuring leather seats, power outlets, automatic doors, and a 10-speaker sound system by Bose.

Toyota in the US: Dependable affordability.

For Americans, Toyota models like the Camry and Corolla have long been viewed as dependable, is somewhat boring sedans.

They do the job and stay out of the shop (although that reputation has been marred recently by waves of recalls).

Toyota in China: A hot button political issue.

Toyota's sales plummeted in China in 2012, in the wake of violent protests and boycotts of Japanese products, sparked by the nations' dispute over a group of islands in the East China Sea.

The Japanese carmaker continues to struggle in the Middle Kingdom, recently cutting 2014 sales forecasts, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Classic taxis also come off differently in China...

Drivers stand next to brand new Geely Englon TX4 taxis, which were created based on the 'London cab', during an inauguration ceremony in Shanghai

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