All-American pick-up trucks aim to lure China's wealthy
By Jake Spring
GUANGZHOU, China (Reuters) - Automakers Ford (F.N: Quote) and General Motors (GM.N: Quote) are aiming the pick-up truck, an iconic staple in the United States, at upmarket buyers in China, where most associate trucks with farmers and construction workers.
"The Chinese call it pika, pika - a very low-end worker's (vehicle). But the (Ford F-150) Raptor is totally different," said Wesley Liu, Ford's Asia-Pacific sales director, ahead of this month's Guangzhou autoshow.
Trucks are largely restricted to overnight driving in most Chinese cities, but four provinces - Yunnan, Liaoning, Hebei and Henan - have this year launched trial programmes allowing them into urban zones in an attempt to stimulate production as economic growth, and car sales, slow.
With those looser restrictions, U.S. pick-up makers aim to distance their trucks from local models made by Great Wall Motor (601633.SS: Quote), Jiangling Motors Corp (JMC) (000550.SZ: Quote) and others - and appeal to Chinese premium buyers, like Meng Shuo.
The 32-year-old founder of an investment consultancy, who already owned a Chevrolet Camaro when he bought an F-150 pick-up truck five years ago through an unofficial grey market importer. He has since traded it in for a Toyota (7203.T: Quote) Tundra, and also owns a Mercedes (DAIGn.DE: Quote) luxury sedan and Porsche (PSHG_p.DE: Quote) and Mitsubishi (7211.T: Quote) sports cars.
Ford said in April it would bring a high-performance version of its F-series - the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. for 34 years - to China, the world's biggest auto market. A spokesman said the company is studying whether to also bring a mass-market model such as the F-150 or Ranger pick-up to China, depending on demand and future regulations.
"The people who buy the Raptor maybe own some other premium vehicle already. This is another toy," Liu said.
The truck is aimed at four types of buyers, he said - the wealthy, who want to stand out from the crowd; business owners, who want more than a traditional commercial vehicle; drivers who want a single car for all situations; and "gearheads", who just like the mechanics. Continued...