by Xinhua writers Liu Xin, Zhang Jian
BEIJING, Jan. 27 (Xinhua) -- Landing at Beijing Capital International Airport, China's Hongqi sedan designer arrived with a plan for cooperation with European designers.
"Hongqi is discovering the most outstanding design resources around the world to make the historic sedan brand international," Zhang told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.
"We will focus on the electric vehicle design in future."
FAW Group will introduce 17 models, mostly electric, by 2025. Its Hongqi subsidiary will roll out its first electric model this year and by 2025, it will have introduced another 14 electric cars.
His creative design team would apply Chinese aesthetics of symmetry to the new models.
The iconic waterfall-like grille and the vertical tail lamp were modern design concepts, Zhang explained.
"We accept ideas from around the world, but the Chinese will make the final decision," Zhang said. "Hongqi must have a distinctive and recognizable shape."
The new cars would continue the Chinese tradition of the early models. "But the final version should be a perfect mixture of Chinese elements and advanced technology," Zhang said.
Jia Yanliang, 78, designed the shape and interior of its classic CA770 model in 1964.
The sedan's logo featured Chairman Mao Zedong's calligraphy and a red flag.
During the design work in 1964, the designers expected the CA770 would hold its style for 10 years. "It had a sporty shape," Jia said. The red flag logo reflected movement.
Jia lowered the waist line, or belt line, 80 millimeters on the body of CA770 and enlarged the windows.
He was inspired by the lines and edges of Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) furniture. "Chinese tradition is a rich source of inspiration for auto designers," he said. "It's very easy to recognize Hongqi among other sedans."
Jia's design was chosen from six design drafts in total.
"We sought advice from the drivers of the state leaders," Jia said. "And they gave their opinions according to the leaders' requirements."
The CA770 is considered as the first independently researched and developed China-made sedan.
"It had no imported parts, not even screws," Jia said, describing a major feat for an underdeveloped country at that time.
The CA770's predecessor, the CA72, applied the lines of the window edges of the Forbidden City, Chinese moire, and a folding fan. "But it was like a Chrysler with Chinese elements," Jia said.
Established in 1953 and headquartered in the northeast China city of Changchun, FAW has other brands, including Jiefang and Besturn. It also has joint ventures with major foreign car-makers such as Volkswagen and Toyota.
Jia recalled how the government assigned the task of manufacturing a homemade sedan to the FAW in 1958 and named it Hongqi to greet the 10th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.
At that time, experts from the Soviet Union left, taking with them the design sheets. Marshal Chen Yi gave a Mercedes-Benz Pullman to FAW for research. "This showed country's great expectations of homemade cars," Jia said.
The CA77X range has been used as the National Day parade sedan and the vehicle for state guests ever since.
Hongqi is now the official sedan supplier of China's embassies and consulates abroad.
"It has been always our responsibility to serve the government," said Zhang Ming.
Aiming for the middle and high end market, Hongqi's appearance at government and diplomatic occasions has enhanced its branding, said Cui Shudong, secretary-general of the China Passenger Car Association.
Cui pointed out that Hongqi should also improve its research and development ability, not only branding.
"It could have a market share of 60,000 to 100,000 sales a year," Cui said.
He suggested Hongqi focus on B-Class vehicles which can cost 200,000 to 300,000 yuan (about 31,200 to 46,800 U.S. dollars). "In China, B-Class vehicles cover business and family use."
Now Hongqi has introduced a range of new models for the passenger car market. It has an annual sales target of 100,000 units by 2020, 300,000 units by 2025 and 500,000 units by 2035.
Contrary to rumors that Hongqi limousines are hand-made, Zhang Ming said the cars are products, not art works. "But we manufacture them to the top standard."