6 May 2005

This year’s Shanghai Motor Show proved that the rate of progress of China’s motor industry is outweighed only by its ambition. The Chinese car market is expected to become the world’s second largest within a few years, and by then the Shanghai show itself should be the world’s third biggest after Detroit and Frankfurt, said its organisers. China’s oldest luxury maker, Honqi, reflected that sense of ambition with a design concept that most observers doubted they’d ever see – a Chinese interpretation of Rolls-Royce’s magisterial Phantom 2. At 6325mm long, 1990mm wide and sitting on a 3900mm wheelbase, the Honqi HQD is even more noticeable than the Rolls thanks to its slabbier styling, squared-off front wings and immense grille.

Honqi, better known as Red Flag after years of supplying transport for China’s ruling Communist Party, said the HQD is intended to show how a Chinese luxury saloon could fit into today’s more commercial market. Power is expected to come from a 6.0-litre 12-cylinder engine.

A Rolls-Royce spokesman said the company ‘knew nothing’ about the HQD. BMW design chief Chris Bangle seemed intrigued, however: ‘I’d just like to find out some more,’ he said.

Rival designer Olivier Boulay, currently running Mercedes’ Tokyo think-tank, was more charitable. ‘I think this is great,’ he said. ‘It’s honest to the Chinese and to Red Flag’s heritage.’ The HQD is expected to go into production ‘before 2008.’

Honqi also took the wraps off the HQ3, a more ordinary-looking saloon based on the Toyota Crown, and the seven-seater Century Star.

Chery also had some interesting fruit at Shanghai. Among them were a new CC-style sports car, the M14, and the S16 (right), a conceptual replacement for the controversial QQ that brought about a law suit from General Motors over its similarity with the Chevrolet Matiz.

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