For the past two years China has been the largest new car market in the world, and it doesn’t look like that will change anytime soon. All international car brands are tripping over themselves to get established in China, while the local Chinese brands are doing their best to get a piece of their growing automotive market. At the recent Shanghai Auto Show there were impressive displays from all of the major (and many of the minor) automotive players, with all sorts of showy cars and SUVs vying for attention. It was a large black Chinese sedan tucked away in a corner that caught my attention the most, however.
The Hongqi L5 (pronounced something like ‘hong chee’) is a modern interpretation of the legendary (at least in China!) Hongqi CA71 and CA72 limousines from the late 1950s and 1960s. It was THE car for government officials and elite in a time when the everyday Chinese citizen couldn’t even have dreamt of owning a car. Designed to convey wealth, power, and stature, the Hongqi was considered to be the Chinese equivalent of a Rolls Royce. To be sure, it was never as luxurious or powerful as a Rolls, but it certainly cut an equally imposing profile. The Hongqi name means ‘red flag’, which has always been a powerful symbol for China.
Several other models of Hongqi were produced in from the 1970s until recently, but they were always lightly-modified versions of other manufacturer’s cars, and were a far cry from the original. Several years ago, Hongqi’s owner, FAW, produced a true successor to the traditional Chinese limousine, the L5 pictured here. At the auto show there was also an SUV concept, showing that even a half-century old Chinese brand is looking to join the modern automotive world! It carried some of the signature Hongqi design details, like a long, low and wide body, shiny chrome grille, and distinctive red flag hood ornament.
Every year there are rumours that serial production for the new Hongqi will begin, though it would seem that only a handful have been produced at this point. These, like the originals, are used mostly by officials to transport visiting dignitaries, and apparently carry a price tag of an incredible 1.2 million dollars! It looks like China’s most interesting vehicle won’t be finding its way into the average man’s hands anytime soon, but it’s still interesting for an automotive fan to discover this modern version of what is the only true historic Chinese car.
Welcome! My name is Paul, and I am an old-fashioned, low-pressure, low-buck car fan with lots of automotive stories to tell!