Rickshaw gets the Mini treatment in Beijing

Mon Sep 29, 2008 3:12am EDT
 
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BEIJING (Reuters Life!) - Fancy car or expensive rickshaw? British car brand Mini has given the ubiquitous Asian mode of transport a luxurious twist, fusing a bicycle with the back of one of its cars.

The Mini Rickshaw was created by connecting the front of a traditional rickshaw with the rear of a Mini Clubman to fete the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. It comes equipped with plush seats, safety belts and embellished with gold-plated dragons.

Weighing about 450 kg (992 lb), the rickshaw has no engine and is powered by muscle strength only.

The vehicle, with its "Beijing 2008" license plate, has been drawing the attention of many Chinese who often step into the Mini showroom to ask about its specs.

"People walking by were quite interested in this rickshaw. Many of them kept asking us that whether this rickshaw can be seen around Beijing streets or be sold in the future," Liu Chen, Mini marketing manager, told Reuters.

"But in fact, it's promotional and we don't have any plan to put it into the market."

Mini is owned by BMW, the world's biggest premium carmaker, and China is one of the brand's significant markets.

Gao Jingjing, a Mini sales assistant, said the rickshaw highlighted Eastern and Western manufacturing skills. However, unlike regular rickshaws, few people would be able to afford it -- if sold, the vehicle would probably retail for almost $900,000.

Rickshaws were widely used in Beijing before Communist rule, with their numbers peaking around 370,000 in 1939.

Now, these traditional vehicles are a tourist attraction, with more than 1,000 in service in the city.

(Writing by Miral Fahmy; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)