SMACKDOWN: How Car Stereotypes Stack Up In China And The US

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Photo: ToastyKen via Flickr

At 30 years old, the Chinese car market is nascent compared to the rest of the world.However, the nation’s quickly expanding economy means that the demand has grown exponentially; automakers like GM are investing heavily as sales growth there is outpacing almost everywhere else in the world.

Over the last 30 years the Chinese public has also formed some very strong opinions as to who drives a particular make and model and why, according to the New York Times.

But how do these opinions mesh with the way automakers are seen in the US?

Audi in America: The new luxury

While other luxury makers carry a stigma of old money and old age, Audi is quietly becoming synonymous with younger age and 'new luxury.'

Fast fact: In England, the perception is quite different. Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson told 60 Minutes that he believes Audi drivers are 'psychologically unfit to drive anything more powerful than an electric razor.'

Audi in China: For the government elite

In China, Audi's are seen as the car of the government and elite. The power class in China drives Audis, and taxi drivers like Wang Zhi say 'It's always best to yield to an Audi.'

Fast fact: Audi gained access to the Chinese market nearly 15 years before BMW, thanks to a shrewd partnership parent company VW made with Chinese automaker Yiqi.

BMW in America: Cars are great, drivers are aggressive

In America, BMWs are known for driving excellence. However, the buyers have often been seen as pretentious people as well as very aggressive drivers.

Fast fact: BMW opened their first US manufacturing facility in 1994 in Spartanburg, SC, to build the X5 and Z3.

BMW in China: Symbol of the corrupt

BMW's higher pricing in China has led to some very negative perceptions, especially when government officials are seen in one. They are thought to be corrupt and spending funds incorrectly.

Fast fact: There were also incidents in China that have painted BMW in a poor light. In 2003 a woman purposefully ran over a man in her X5 and a recent street racing incident involving a BMW M6 left one dead

Mercedes in America: The epitome of luxury

When someone mentions a luxury car, an image of the three-pointed-star logo and the name Mercedes-Benz almost immediately springs to mind. Mercedes are favoured by those with old money and fans of classic luxury.

Fast fact: The Benz Patent-Motorwagen was the first purpose built, self propelled car and was first shown in 1886.

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 statement like an Audi or BMW. They are not daring, they are not outrageous, a Mercedes is a safe, conservative choice.

Fast fact: Interestingly, China is Mercedes' fastest growing market, with almost 41% growth so far this year.

Buick in America: The car for grandparents

Buick has been trying to reinvent itself in America for decades. However, cars like the Lucerne (pictured) have not helped Buick escape the perception that it is for the over--the-hill crowd.

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

Buick in China: The fashionable accessory

And this brings us to Buick in China. What was once declared a 'damaged brand' by GM VP Bob Lutz, Buick has come back in spades. Buick's are seen as the hottest luxury cars in China, which makes them a status symbol.

Fast fact: Some of the interest in Buicks is legacy based; China's last emperor and first president drove them.

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