There hasn’t been wildly positive reactions to the new Vision Mercedes-Maybach Ultimate Luxury concept in the Autocar office, unveiled in pictures today ahead of its debut at the Beijing motor show tomorrow.
It has been very firmly positioned as a concept for China – and no wonder.
Between the challenging rear, the rose gold flourishes and tea set inside, it certainly doesn’t cater for European tastes.
The car is also a stark contrast to the beautiful Maybach 6 Cabriolet concept shown at Pebble Beach last summer. Perhaps Mercedes design boss Gorden Wagener is just very clued up on his respective markets; the 6 Cabriolet perfectly suited Pebble Beach’s clientele and, presumably (hopefully), the Ultimate Luxury perfectly suits China’s.
More broadly speaking, these differing tastes are a constant challenge for car makers, many of which must create global cars rather than ones built for specific markets.
Citroën, for example, has what it calls ‘eight silhouettes’ on which its cars are based. That they are called silhouettes rather than cars, I think, is because each rears its head in different forms depending on the market. Whatever you call it, that makes sense in this day and age.
For example, the C4 Aircross, to be revealed at the show, will be for China only and is that country’s answer to the C3 Aircross, which is built on the same platform. But there are some notable differences. The C4 Aircross has a different front-end design, a skid plate and twin tailpipe at the rear and is 12cm longer to accommodate more rear space.
That last feature encapsulates perhaps the biggest difference between China and the rest of the world.
We know that the Chinese lifestyle means it’s far more common to carry passengers in the rear. That’s not just at the high end of the market, where affluent businesspeople are chauffeured around, but also in smaller cars. So much so that volume manufacturers of compact cars – such as the C4 Aircross – adapt their products to suit China. We’ve also spoken to plenty of car makers in a similar market space that make the rear of Chinese models better equipped for passengers, who are often elderly parents.
We mustn’t forget the elephant in the room, either. The C word. Chrome. We know, from buying trends and speaking to plenty of car designers, that Chinese car buyers love chrome. The rest of the world does not.