Saturday, 8 May 2010

car culture

The Beijing Motor Show was being held while my wife and I were in Beijing. Of course, we didn’t attend, but I did come across an interesting news item on the subject. Apparently, the top-of-the-range models from Mercedes, Audi and BMW are made six inches longer for the China market than for all other markets. What use is made of this extra length? It turns out that it all goes to providing extra leg room in the back.

And why would that be? Because, in China, when it comes to expensive cars, the man (and they’re invariably men) who owns the car always sits in the back. You may not notice immediately that this is not ostentation; China has relatively few cars compared with the size of its population, so learning to drive is not a teenage rite of passage there. Overwhelmingly, those people who do learn to drive do so in order to earn a living, driving a taxi, say, or a truck. And it is certainly easier on the nerves to employ someone else to do the driving when that driving is done on the streets and highways of Beijing. I’d prefer to sit in the back too.

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