China's Love Affair With SUVs

Beijing, China
Keren Su | Getty Images
Beijing, China

In a country where gas is more expensive than the U.S. ($4.42/gal), where the roads and highways and are still being built out, and where congestion chokes the traffic in big cities, China's love of the SUV runs strong.

Yes, the Chinese love SUV's.

In fact, 16% of the vehicles sold here are SUV's.

"The people in China want the size and power and prestige that are represented with an SUV," says Finbarr O'Neill, President of J.D. Power.

That surging appetite for SUV's is why Ford has announced it will build the Kuga and Eco-Sport SUV's at its new plant in China. Those two SUV's will be sold China along with the Explorer (built in Chicago) and Edge, which is built in Canada.

"What we've found is a large number of Chinese families are buying an SUV for their second vehicle," says Joe Hinrichs, President of Ford Asia. "People here in China like the higher seating to see above the congestion you find in many cities in China."

The ultimate for many in China is the luxury SUV. It sends a statement of having money and power in a country where the image you portray behind the wheel is everything. No wonder Lamborghini chose the Beijing Auto Show to unveil its first ever SUV. It's called the Urus and officially it's still a concept, but given China's thirst for upscale SUV's don't be surprised if Lamborghini builds it.

Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann says China's love of high end SUV's makes this a perfect place to unveil a model that would start at $160,000. "The people in China want these types of vehicles. They want the feeling of a luxury SUV," said Winkelmann.

This love for the SUV is ironic given the desire of leaders in China to have the country move towards more fuel efficient vehicles, especially electric models. That change will take place gradually over time.

So while China may seem a world away for most in the U.S. The tastes here aren't much different than they are in middle America.

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