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Old 6th August 2006, 19:58   #1
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Default The Shanghai Motoring Scene – From the Passenger Seat

This is not the overall Chinese motoring scene as traffic manners in Shanghai differ compared to the rest of the country. (bit like Mumbai and the rest of the country).

My experience started from Pudong Airport on a 30 km drive to the hotel. Highways are massive. People drive fast but disciplined in overtaking, scary part is that people do not maintain distances. Trucks are shabby but in roadworthy condition. Never saw one in the town centre.

In the city, fairly disciplined, just like any European city. Shanghai is surrounded by a huge elevated ring road with a portion cutting through town which makes a huge difference. Rush hour on a 10 km journey will add 10 min to a normally 30 min journey. Two wheelers non existent. Cycles in city centre backstreets also

Taxi Scene - These are run on a large scale by four companies - Parking is a big issue, hence people just take taxis. Taxis are total no nonsense. In peak hour, it might take you 10 min more to get one but you just get in, give the driver the written directions (without this or fluency in Mandarin, you are toast otherwise, as the “gwai-lo” – foreign devil – names are different than the local names.). Sit back and enjoy the ride. Pay as per meter and get exact change. No stories, no offers of women or fakes, no cheating. At the most, the driver may not know the place as he might have arrived in Shanghai a few hours before you did! Drivers are enclosed in a perspex cage for safety. Drivers have a star rating prominently displayed. All are trained rigourously in driving, routemaps, courtesy etc.



Nearly all taxis are VW Santana’s with a few Cheri’s, a sort of locally faked Audi 100 called the Hongqi and some Kia’s thrown in.

The Car Scene

First – most cars are black, white or silver – that’s it. If it is black, expect a chrome snout on the front. Only red cars seen where Chevy SRV’s ! I saw very few small cars. Due to good mass transport and taxi systems plus expensive parking, only the wealthier drive in. Although our M800 is made there, I only saw three. Two on the airport tarmac and one near the airport.

This is VW land and nearly becoming “was”. VW was virtually the only manufacturer in partnership with the Shanghai Auto Industries and started with the Santana (the second gen Passat) in 1985. They kept making it with no changes until GM came in 1998 (also partnered by SAIC!) and they kept making it till they woke up to find market share being lost. SAIC are formidable. You need to get in bed with them to get results but you also will have to realise that you will get screwed indirectly by cloned intellectual property or rival collaboration.



So they came up with the Santana 2000 (based on the third gen Passat already phased out in Europe) but with a tamer front and rear.

And then they ambassdorised it to give the Santana 3000 – takes the place of the Amby as a taxi / government vehicle. These run on LPG in town. The Santana’s are solid although plastics are much to be desired.

In parallel, the Passat was launched with 4 inches added in the rear (to give you the Superb also). This has been replaced by the current VW Passat which is a success due to the blinged grill. The rear end is totally exclusive for China.



In another venture with FAW - First Auto Works, VW make the Jetta (Jetta 2) which has had cosmetic revamps for the worse. In parallel, they sell the Bora, the Golf IV. Yes, a generation was skipped. The new Jetta is sold as the Sagitar. In short, the 2nd, 4th and 5th Golf variants are sold together. Did someone have issues with the Octavia and Laura over here ? Touregs are popular. Never saw a Phaeton.

FAW also make Audi’s. The “ravi shastri” Audi 100 was assembled in limited numbers for government officials as the Hongqi (red flag). Audi graciously let them be copied with another engine and a chrome snout added. Now relegated to taxi work. Pic shows a limo version. There is also a convertible one for parades!



Audi currently make the A4 and A6. The latter is very popular although the A4is considered more hip as most of it is imported. Audi pretty much dominate the luxury market out here. Audi serve the "contessa" market

BMW’s are popular – The 3’s and 5’s are assembled by a company called Brilliance who make their own clone!


i-drive comes with Mandarin settings.. Saw mainly 5 series E’60’s . Bangled 7’s are popular as also the odd X5. Saw couple of 6’s.

Mercedes – not many as one would expect. Mainly black S classes (W140 onwards) with chrome wheels!). Lots of new S350’s which look rather boring as they look like the other blinged cars in China. E Classes - any turquoise ones are E200 kompressor taxis. Some E240/ E280’s which all have panoramic roofs. Production will start soon so may become more popular.

GM have made strides here. They manufacture the Buick Regal and Lacrosse (ugh) which seem to satisfy most as well as there yankee MPV’s. Also make the Buick Sail (old Opel Corsa) which they have Aveo’ised it (aren’t we lucky!) with a new front end. The Optra is the Buick Excelle with a chromed nose and is quite popular. Looks quite small over there!

Ford are present with the Mondy – only thing is that it has been made rather bland looking to look like a Camry. It took me a while to figure that it was a Mondy.


The new Focus sedan is very popular. Our Ikon’s are around but far and few –they look old. The Mazda 6 and Volvo S60’s are reasonably popular. Jag's are rare

The French are present with a saloon version of the 307 (looks disappointing) as well as the 206. As well as the Citroen Xsara in sedan form as well as the Picasso. Not much considering they had a head start.



Honda is very popular – Accord a big hit. Jazz just started. They are the only manufacturer who owns the entire operation so cloning will be difficult. Saw a few Civic (with much better wheels!). Some Honda Citys, but not that popular.

Toyota are there but not too popular with the Camry and Corolla. A bootleg Camry made by Chery suffices. Nissan are getting popular. Hyundai getting popular, old Sonata did well. Elantra’s also gaining but Kia’s also coming up the inside lane!

Those are the makers, so what about the fakers

Cheri – recycled Toyota’s, Seats and a Chevy Spark clone. www.cheryglobal.com. . Did a very shrewd thing by buying the old Seat Toledo line and setting up in China knowing the Toledo share the Jetta underpinnings. This was a company set up in the backward section of China. Company was illegal as it was a car parts supplier and had no licence to make cars so they got SAIC to take them over and sell the cars. VW and GM were not amused. Exporting to Syria and Pakistan

Geely –


Fake mercs, audi’s they try hard.



URL=http://img115.imageshack.us/my.php?image=chinageelymercedesnt7.jpg][/url]

There are the fake CRV’s etc. My gut feel is that educated people prefer the real thing. Never saw too many “own” brand cars in Shanghai. They are probably found in poorer areas.


The Pioneer in reverse engineering

This the 1950-1970 Shanghai







Any guess’s what it was reverse engineered from?

I probably could write a lot more. Will add on further based on any discussion
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Old 7th August 2006, 04:33   #2
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Very nice and detailed write-up. I love their fakes, they're like cute little toys. Ah well, that's Asian ingenuity for ya!
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Old 7th August 2006, 07:21   #3
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Forgot to add

There were a smattering of Palio's - sorry folks they look really dated now

and....no one mods their cars, byond chrome and tints nothing, very few even put alloys
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Old 7th August 2006, 16:50   #4
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Gr8 report Ajmat.
I had a chance to visit Shanghai, Beijing, Dalian, Hongzhou over a period of 6 months. the chinese have built a awesome highway /freeway infrastructure for all of their big cities.

Black is a symbol of Power in china, hence Black cars are prominent. In 2003 , you would be hard pressed to see any car other than the one with a VW badge on it.

Having stayed in Shanghai for 6 months, I had experienced innumerable traffic jams in peak hours. Subway is the best way for commuting in the city with the Buses & Taxis as last mile feeders.

I had forgotten my Travel documents (Passport etc) in a taxi. Fortunately, I had taken the printout of the fare bill. couple of calls by local Chinese friends to the Taxi Company & bingo...in the next 2 hours I had the documents delivered back to me.
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Old 12th July 2012, 11:45   #5
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Default Re: The Shanghai Motoring Scene – From the Passenger Seat

Currently in Shanghai for short duration.

Can see a variety of cars here, from BMWs to Audi's to Cherry and some chinese brands.

Cars popular in India like NHC, ANHC, Accord, Octavia, Polo and even Swift, A-Star can be seen here.

Some pics..
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Old 12th July 2012, 11:49   #6
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Default Re: The Shanghai Motoring Scene – From the Passenger Seat

Some more..

Notice the two Polos, one is an older model i think.

And the green coloured Cherry QQ, looks so similar to Chevrolet Spark !
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Old 12th July 2012, 12:05   #7
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Default Re: The Shanghai Motoring Scene – From the Passenger Seat

Wow, this is how the ritz will look if it is give a proper rear end:



Thanks for sharing the pics, ajmat.

Last edited by ani_meher : 12th July 2012 at 12:07.
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