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OF DRAGONS AND OSTENTATION
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Jeep Wrangler Dragon concept

April 27, 2012: Opulence and Ostentation is the theme for carmakers this year at the China Auto Show 2012.

Held in the nation's capital, Beijing, this annual event is one of the biggest and boldest car shows in the world, as it is held in a country that has the largest car market with 18 million vehicles sold last year.

With more than 1000 models, including 120 debuts, vying for the attention of potential buyers, the exhibition has been dazzling media, car enthusiasts and Beijingers since it was opened to the press on Monday, April 23 and will continue to do so until its close on May 2.

Luxury automakers like Lamborghini, Bentley and Aston Martin are mesmerising the nouveau rich with ostentatious limited editions featuring dragons and auspicious numbers like 88. (2012 is the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese calendar.)

SUVs are in demand, with 2.1 million sold last year in China. With the doubling of sales expected by 2014, this means that China will be the second biggest SUV market after the U.S. And this is evident at the China Auto Show - crowds have been flocking to see the super-sized, spacious luxury SUVs like Maserati's first SUV, the Kubang crossover and Lamborghini's sport utility concept, the Urus.

There is one feature which most auto companies seemed to have agreed on - big, glossy, chrome grilles. In China, cars are a symbol of status, and the more ostentatious your vehicle, the 'bigger' your 'face'.

Let us take a look at a few of these.
Aston Martin's "Dragon 88"
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88 is an auspicious number with the Chinese, phonetically signifying prosperity. British automaker Aston Martin has coupled this with the dragon, a symbol traditionally associated with Chinese Emperors and power, to market its three limited editions models to the Chinese looking for pomp and poshness in a car. There will be only 88 units built for the three "Year of the Dragon" models: the DBS Volante, Virage Coupe and V8 Vantage S.

The cars are being offered in equally auspicious and powerful colours: Volcano Red, Amethyst Red and Champagne Gold. Bearing 24-carat gold badges and sporting dragon embroidered headrests and gold stitching on the seats, Aston Martin completes the luxurious package with a Bang and Olufsen sound system, dragon edition alloy wheels, wide grilles and special black brake calipers. Essentially, these are all cosmetic changes because the cars keep the same engines found on the standard models. Dragon 88 is priced at 5 million yuan (almost US$800,000) but no worries, Rolls-Royce sold out its Year of the Dragon special Phantom line earlier in the year and that was priced at US$1.2 million!

This is the first time Aston Martin has an official display at a major Chinese auto show. Like its competitors Aston Martin is investing heavily in the growing market and expects it to become the third most important country for sales of Aston Martin sports cars. It currently has dealerships in nine Chinese cities and plans to open 11 more showrooms this year.
Lamborghini Urus Concept
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The Lamborghini Urus is a sporty five-door 600-horsepower SUV concept styled along the lines of the Gallardo and Aventador supercars. There are huge air intakes, jutting lines, bucket seats, toggle switches and a three-spoke steering wheel that is also found on the Aventador.

Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann did not say what engine will be fitted in the SUV, but it is speculated that it will be either a variation of the 560-hp V-10 found in the Lamborghini Gallardo, or the powertrain found in the Porsche Cayenne or even a plug-in version of the new turbocharged Audi V-8 that is found in the Bentley Continental GT V-8.

Winkelmann said the Urus would weigh about 100 kg lighter than its rivals due to its exclusive heft-reducing carbon fibre technology. There is a possibility that this could go into production by 2016, given the favourable reception at the Beijing Auto Show.
Winkelmann explained the reason for the unusual name, which refers to a species of extinct wild cattle that used to roam Europe, Asia, and northern Africa. He likened the concept to these animals: "It's fast, strong, courageous. In one word, it's invincible."

Lamborghini chose Beijing as the launch pad of its new model because China is the second largest market for Lamborghini sales after the U.S. In 2011, a hefty 70% increase in sales was made in China, resulting in a total of 340 units sold. The company will expand its 14 dealerships in China to 20 this year.
Maserati Kubang Concept
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This is the fourth auto show the Kubang concept has been displayed at, and it will be the last - because the production version of Maserati's first SUV will be launched at the Detroit Auto Show in January 2014.

The car will be sold in the European and U.S. markets in the first half of 2014. To be built by Chrysler in Detroit with gasoline and diesel engines brought in from Italy, the Maserati SUV will share its underpinnings with the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The Italian automaker expects to sell 20,000 to 25,000 units of this SUV annually.
Geely Englon Concept
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Chinese automaker Geely introduced three concepts under its Englon brand, all of which are derivatives of the latest London Taxi, the TX4. The brand Englon is a combination of 'England' and 'London', and the name was arrived at because Geely bought a controlling share in Manganese Bronze, the British company which makes the 'Black Taxi'. Geely has been using that as the base for its new designs and its newest concept is a sedan called Englon SC7-RS.

The other two concepts are the Englon SC7-RV hatchback and the SX6 crossover. The SC7-RS sedan will be powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine but Geely said it is likely that the smaller SX6 will be getting the 1.3- and 1.5-liter four-cylinder engines.

The huge frontal grille and headlights are rather reminiscent of the Bentley, don't you think? Production plans for all three concepts are still uncertain.
Chrysler Jeep Wrangler Dragon Concept
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Dragon motifs and silhouettes abound in this derivative of the Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon that is being sold in the China market. The concept is painted black with bronze and gold details found all over the vehicle. Besides the dragon decal running along the side of the Jeep, there are dragon motifs on the carbon-fibre insulator under the hood, on the spare-tyre cover and on the gold-fabric seats.

The Dragon also gets unique 18-inch wheels in matte black with a bronze and gold outer edge and 35-inch off-road tires.

"The Wrangler Dragon design concept is the first Jeep vehicle designed specifically with Chinese elements in mind and showcases the opportunity for special editions that might be available for China in the near future," said Jeep chief executive Michael Manley in a Chrysler Group announcement.
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