10 Shades Of Red (Leather): A Look Back At The Beijing Auto Show

Aston Martin, Bentley, Lamborghini Among Brands That Introduced New Vehicles At Beijing Auto Show

Auto China 2012 (Image: Zandie Brockett)

On a daily basis, one can see the most exotic of cars on the streets of Beijing. From chrome-covered purple Bentleys to hot pink Lamborghinis, a car culture, similar to that found in sprawling Los Angeles, has certainly started to develop. However, unlike Los Angeles — where class still rules considerations like color choices — wealthy Beijingers are restricted only by their monetary resources. Fittingly, Beijing’s car lovers, to whom excess is a meaningless term, came out in force late last month for the 2012 Beijing International Automobile Exhibition, hoping to catch a glimpse of the industry’s newest models.

Spread out over five enclosed exhibition halls, augmented by several pop-up showrooms surrounding the newly opened China International Exhibition Hall, models shown at this year’s installment of the Beijing Auto Show truly ran the gamut. Auto-giddy Beijingers crowded around glass barriers, eagerly snapping iPhone photos of the Aston Martin’s Dragon88‘s dragon-embroidered seats, after-market Phantom Rolls Royce limousines, and of course, Lamborghini’s new Urus SUV.

Auto China 2012 (Image: Zandie Brockett)

As Bentley rolled out its Mulsanne Diamond Jubilee — a replica of the Queen of England’s limousine, and one of only 60 models created — the Beijing Auto show made clear that automakers are targeting Beijing’s newly wealthy with laser-guided focus. Customization, for this group, is key, and major marques have been all too eager to cater to their every whim. At the show, a display in the Rolls-Royce section displayed 10 shades of red (and one shade of pink) leather to outfit new custom creations. (Though the relative garishness of this display was offset by a historic 1930s Rolls-Royce on show.) Though China’s mass-market auto segment is set to slow this year, premium brands are expected to register 15-20 percent growth. With the market becoming increasingly saturated, top automakers hope continued localization and customization will help maintain visibility, counterbalance sluggish sales in Europe, and make their massive investments in China pay off.

Although the sexy, shiny cars were the main attraction during Beijing’s Labor Day holiday weekend, the lines were not for the faint of heart. As a result, I will most likely continue my auto show visits, but only at less-crowded American convention centers.

Bentley's new Beijing flagship, its largest in Asia (Photo: Zandie Brockett)

Dancers perform at the opening of Beijing's new Bentley flagship, as Jackie Chan looks on (Image: Zandie Brockett)

Auto China 2012 (Image: Zandie Brockett)

Auto China 2012 (Image: Zandie Brockett)

Auto China 2012 (Image: Zandie Brockett)

Auto China 2012 (Image: Zandie Brockett)

Auto China 2012 (Image: Zandie Brockett)

Auto China 2012 (Image: Zandie Brockett)

Auto China 2012 (Image: Zandie Brockett)

Auto China 2012 (Image: Zandie Brockett)

Auto China 2012 (Image: Zandie Brockett)

Auto China 2012 (Image: Zandie Brockett)

Auto China 2012 (Image: Zandie Brockett)

Zandie Brockett is a Beijing-based curator, consultant and photographer from Los Angeles. Brockett is now working on several projects in Beijing in addition to her photography, such as the development and production of HONG轰, a self-sustaining platform that provides Beijing-based emerging artists a way to support the production, exhibition and sale of their artwork.

To learn more about Brockett, visit her blog The Zandie Project or the website for HONG轰 Beijing北京.

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