Hongqi sales speed ahead

China | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 6 Dec 2018

Car sales are falling in China this year but one brand is speeding ahead. The national "Red Flag" sedan is flying high, powered by purchases from the government, state companies and patriotic citizens.

Beloved by Chairman Mao Zedong, the luxury car - "Hongqi" - is getting a new lease of life as President Xi Jinping makes a push for national economic self-reliance amid a trade war with the United States.

The black sedan with a chrome grille and a raised red stripe at the tip of its hood is best known for ferrying Xi and other Communist Party honchos around.

But state-owned airlines, banks, telecom operators and even steel mills have shelled out to build their own fleets in recent months.

Air China put out a tender for its first Hongqi H7 sedans in October - which have a starting price of around 250,000 yuan (HK$285,000).

"It's our national brand for our company's management," said Xue Ning, a purchasing manager. He did not know how many the firm would buy.

A state tobacco company in Jian just received its first 15 cars, while China Unicom is supplying branches across the country.

China Southern Airlines, Hesteel Group, China Mobile Tietong, Agricultural Bank of China and other state firms have also bought Hongqis recently.

Owned by state-owned FAW Group, Hongqi is getting state support despite Xi's repeated pledges to further open up China's economy and create a more level playing field.

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