It's not particularly unusual to see cheap cars in China, or those with designs stolen from foreign competitors, but increasingly the best-selling vehicles there would be very recognizable to just about any auto enthusiast. There appears to be one fact of life whether looking at car buyers in Sacramento, Stuttgart or Shanghai: People who can afford to buy premium cars often look first at the Germans.

Honda recently thought that it could challenge this perceived wisdom by including a premium Accord in the ninth-generation sedan's Chinese launch last year. The market-exclusive version was priced against the Audi A4. The venture failed, miserably.

According to Automotive News China, sales for the new Accord in China are down 37 percent through May of this year. Honda's overall sales are actually up by about 11 percent there on the strength of smaller, less profitable models. However, the company is still off its forecast 19-percent rise.

It appears that Honda badly judged the Chinese market's appetite for Japanese cars. The recent political relationship between the two countries has been strained, to put things mildly, and it has skewed car sales. Protests in 2012 resulted in vandalism to Japanese cars and even temporarily closing of factories associated with the nation. The hard feelings haven't subsided, it seems. A study published in May of 2014 found that 51 percent of Chinese consumers surveyed would never consider buying a Japanese car.

With the Japanese automakers at a severe handicap, the Germans are flourishing. According to Automotive News China, the two best-selling midsize sedans in the country are the Volkswagen Passat and Passat-derived Magotan, and Audi is China's best selling premium brand. In fact, driving one is almost a requirement among government bureaucrats. It seems that just about no matter where you are in the world, buyers love a German luxury sedan.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 68 Comments
      manure
      • 5 Months Ago
      If China is so offended about Japan's actions in WWII, I suppose they believe Germany was just a goody two-shoes during that same era? They both build really good cars, so that is beside the point. Lastly, there is nothing BMW or Audi have that Toyota or Nissan do not. BMW and Audi are no longer premium brands; they are mainstream full-line marques with no authenticity. They build generic commodity cars by the millions.
        United
        • 5 Months Ago
        @manure
        "If China is so offended about Japan's actions in WWII, I suppose they believe Germany was just a goody two-shoes during that same era?" No. China is not offended by Japan's actions in WW2. They are insulted by what Japan continues to do to this very day AFTER the war, which is whitewashing of history & still denying their crimes against humanity. In case of Germany, they acted completely opposite.
        Kevin Chu
        • 5 Months Ago
        @manure
        Compare to what Japanese military did to the Chinese civilians in WWII and arguing about Senkaku Islands recently, Germany is nothing. Study the history when you have time. That's why we hate Japanese so much.
          itschrislee
          • 5 Months Ago
          @Kevin Chu
          You claim to hate the Japanese.... And yet you own a G37? O_o
        Brandon
        • 5 Months Ago
        @manure
        Japan likes to act like they did no wrong during the war, I can understand that WW2 was more 60+ years ago but half assing an apology and acting like nothing ever happened doesn't really help them. Germany did the exact opposite.
        adam1keith1980
        • 5 Months Ago
        @manure
        No. In China, they know luxury, and luxury cars ONLY comes from Europe. Also, luxury means getting a new car every 2-3 years, not buying a Lexus and driving it for 10 years without paying for repairs.
        Brandon
        • 5 Months Ago
        @manure
        You are seriously dumb if you think Audi and BMW aren't luxury brands, there is absolutely nothing Honda Toyota or Nissan offers over in the US or Europe that is semi comparable to a 3 series or Audi A8 at all.
      david.bergman1
      • 5 Months Ago
      Let's take the nationality of the automobiles out of the equation for a second. Did Honda really think they could compete against a premium branded car? They mustn't understand the premium market very well. All of the market data shows that a reason why people purchase premium cars is the brand prestige. Honda has no such perceived prestige. They should have looked at the Phaeton as a precedent for such an endeavor.
        adam1keith1980
        • 5 Months Ago
        @david.bergman1
        Of Honda does not understand the luxury market. They still don't have a V8 and RWD. WTF is wrong with those people?
      Hossi Blumengaarten
      • 5 Months Ago
      I think it is crazy that the United States, British Empire and the Soviet Union did everything they could to destroy Germany during and the early years after WW2 ended( 2 million germans killed after Germany surrender, Allies plan to destroy all industry in Germany, USSR steal the rest of the industry and ship it back to their lands and finally give large parts of Germany to Poland, USSR and Czech Republic) and today German industry and cars are the best in the world compared to American, Russian(LOL LADA) and British(LOL mass market cars are dead and luxury is owned by Germans and Indians) and the people around the world agree no matter were you go justice will always prevail
        LW
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Hossi Blumengaarten
        I was under the impression the US stole every person worthy to steal from Germany, and put the rest of them on trial on a crime that was not defined by any international law.
      • 5 Months Ago
      The word "stolen" has malicious and racist tone. Where is this writer from? Granting you are from U.S, haven't you seen several cars with almost the same design?I've mistaken Ford SUV for Lexus350 and several others.But since it is U.S we call it normal - not stolen or copy cat - design.You stupid racist
        Brian Calhoun
        • 5 Months Ago
        They actually steal the car design. http://jalopnik.com/these-are-chinas-most-shameless-knockoffs-477338110
        ravenosa
        • 5 Months Ago
        Talking about stealing designs isn't racist. Perhaps you're joking? If so, funny stuff!
      Lunch
      • 5 Months Ago
      Nationalities aside. The newly rich Chinese want to show off their wealth and since the German brands were high end from day 1, they want the prestige of owning a German car. Bottom line, they want to show off their wealth and a Honda ain't going to do it.
      2012JKU
      • 5 Months Ago
      Everyone loves their German cars when new. Just wait till the warranty ends and stuff starts breaking...the love will quickly come to and end. Hopefully they have enough sense in China to just lease and turn it in at the end before left holding the bag for expensive maintenance, labor and parts.
      churchmotor
      • 5 Months Ago
      At least show a pic of the Chinese Accord. Can't wait to see how NightFlight200-1701 will . . .
      NightFlight
      • 5 Months Ago
      The Accord is boring to everyone.... I see that Mary Mean a is already here, of course.
      OptimusPrimeRib
      • 5 Months Ago
      Selling a premium Accord to combat the German cars is like selling a premium wine cooler to replace champagne. It's gonna fail miserably.
        manure
        • 5 Months Ago
        @OptimusPrimeRib
        The Accord is equal to products like the A4 and A6. The Audis cost more because they cost more, so are "premium cars." The Audi executives must laugh about it daily.
      Ask
      • 5 Months Ago
      What's wrong with loving German Luxury sedans?
      Hernan
      • 5 Months Ago
      I think part of the problem is aspirational buying - Honda has nothing above the Accord, so by getting an Accord you don't acquire any perceived brand cachet. Compare that to something like the A4 - you're driving a car that shares a badge with cars ranging from the more premium models like the A6, 7 and 8, the RS cars, the R8, not to mention the R18. Same for BMW, 5, 6, 7, M division, i8. Rightly or wrongly, it makes you feel like part of the club even if you have the lower models. I don't think Honda is in a position to rival the german's reputation for luxury, but it could certainly create one or two sports cars to shine up the badge a little.
        churchmotor
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Hernan
        They sell Acuras in china. Plus the Honda spiror in China is a premium car that's sold here as the Acura TSX
      United
      • 5 Months Ago
      So the Japanese boys(who give fake apologies & feel that there is nothing wrong with them building a shrine for their nazi Japanese soldiers & class A war criminals right in the middle of Tokyo) tried to cheat the Chinese & failed miserably. Imagine if Germany also acted like the Japanese in Europe & built a shrine for the nazi soldiers, their war criminals & Hitler right in the middle of Berlin & their prime ministers annually payed respects there like the Japanese are still doing today doing & insulting the rest of it's Asian neighbors... I can understand perfectly why 50% of Chinese say they willl never buy a Japanese car....
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