As a journalist, I am sometimes called upon to deliver bad news, so brace yourself: You no longer live in the center of the Car Universe.
From the 1908 Ford Model T to, oh, about three years ago, Americans enjoyed total automotive hegemony. The U.S. was not only the globe's largest personal-vehicle market—almost 17 million light-vehicle sales a year at its peak in 2005—it was also an unrivaled global tastemaker. From tail fins to SUVs to rims to plug-in hybrid electrics, U.S. auto makers and consumers have led the way. European and Japanese auto makers set up design studios in Southern California to study the habits of the inscrutable Yankee, with his Big Gulp and third-trimester belly. Proud companies sold their souls to seduce American car buyers. A Porsche sport utility (Cayenne#, a Honda pickup #Ridgeline#, a Ferrari with cup holders. Nothing was sacred.
Now China is the dragon in the room. As of 2009, the country is the world's largest light-vehicle market #sales in 2012 are estimated at more than 18 million, compared with about 14.5 million for the U.S.), and the fastest-growing. The prediction blithely bandied about here at the Beijing International Auto Show was an annual car market of 30 million sales by 2020. Meanwhile, the premium-car market is, well, erupting is the only word, with predictions on the order of 15% to 20% annual growth for the next decade. Western car makers, frantic to get their hooks into China's young and affluent, are rushing into joint ventures with Chinese interests as fast as the ink can dry.
keyboard shortcuts: V vote up article J next comment K previous comment