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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello,

My name is Cliff and this is my first post on CCF! I've lived in the US all my life but I just found out that I will be moving to Beijing in about a year! I've lived in the US most of my adult life so I'm trying to prepare myself for the culture change. I'm also addicted to cars -- more specifically modifying cars (see my sig for my current rides).

I've never lived in China but from what I have been able to research on the internet, there doesn't seem to be a strong auto tuning culture in China. :( Japan obviously has a lot going on so I was surprised that China did not. Can someone explain this to me? I

'm know I have about a thousand more questions so thanks in advance for any information / advice you can provide!

Cheers, -cliff
 

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Welcome!

Hello Cliff, and first of all WELCOME to CCF and also welcome to China next year! I currently live in China, and I'm also from the USA.......I'm not sure if that really means anything but oh well!! I'm sure you DO have a lot of questions, but I'm sure all of the good people here at CCF will do their best to answer them over the course of time (myself included)! Let's answer your first question right now...the auto tuning culture in China (or the lack of one)??

The simple answer is this - lack of market demand (but that is changing). Remember - just 10 to 15 years ago, there was in reality NO auto culture in China AT ALL. In those days (1995 or so), you either had taxis or government official/big business official cars............with very, VERY few private cars. Even as the car market developed 4-5 years ago (and is still continuing to develop of course) and more people could afford to buy cars, they weren't really interested in aftermarket stuff (ESPECIALLY performance related). Most people just wanted something decently comfortable and affordable......just the idea of OWNING A CAR was amazing enough anyway!!!

Now, let's look at the OTHER angle - who is the PRIMARY buying force in aftermarket items (at least in the USA)? Young adult males in the age range of 17-25 or so. Remember, I used the word PRIMARY - there are of course buyers in all age ranges (and females as well...let's be fair here). The PRIMARY buying market (for cars) in China is a bit older (early to mid 30s I would say) simply because they are more capable of affording the down payment as well as monthly payments. Young adults in China (on the average) simply don't earn enough money (yet) to think about buying a car - let alone aftermarket items!!

Now, like I said earlier, this IS changing - especially in the bigger cities. More and more young adults CAN afford to buy a car (or their parents buy one for them) and the emergence of auto websites AND auto magazines in China are helping to quickly "create" a culture!! Car clubs are forming in most cities (one of my teacher friends is in one here in Nanning.....he owns a Peugeot 206 and so far he's added a free flow exhaust system to his car) and they'll have weekend rallys, destination drives to the beach or somewhere else, etc. In the biggest cities like Shanghai and Beijing, there is also a growing problem with street racing on the outer ring roads.........and we're talking with SERIOUSLY modified cars (I suppose it's no coincidence that "Need for Speed" is HUGELY popular here). I've also been to a couple of the aftermarket accesory shops here in Nanning and most of the items are things like seat covers, window tint, oil and gas treatments, stuff like that.....not a LOT of performance items but some (bolt on exhaust systems, stiffer shocks, roll bars, etc.). As the used car market grows, so will the availability of cheap, affordable cars for teens and young adults - most of them wanting a way to make their car more COOL...........and henceforth a growing buying force in aftermarket items!

I hope this answers your question!! There are other things to consider (like the lack of available roads to even go fast enough to THINK about beefing up your engine - at least in the city), but basically it is just not enough buyers out there...at least not yet. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
Hi jmsteiny!

Thanks for the welcome and thanks for all the great info! That historical background really puts things in perspective! The potential for a growing car tuning culture has me pretty excited -- maybe I can be an integral part of a new market. Kind of reminds me of when the Japanese tuning culture made its way to the US and it really started with modified honda civics and such because that's what the young people could afford. I'm an aspiring entrepreneur so I wonder if I could open a shop similar to what you have in Nanning with simple aesthetic mods like seat covers, pedals, shift knobs, tint, etc. I'd really be interested in hearing more about that shop.

Street racing? Seriously modified cars? Outer ring roads? Can you tell me more about all this? Who are these people who can afford to modify their cars in a place where mods aren't readily available? What kind of cars and what kind of power are they making? I'm not into street racing -- I'm more into building show cars. Don't get me wrong, I still like to have at least 300hp on tap in case the road opens up, but I concentrate my efforts on a clean and balanced package. Regardless, there's no denying the fact that car modding form mimics motorsports function. If there are people making fast cars and people are interested in "need for speed" and "the fast and the furious", then there will definitely be interest in a place offering car mods. Hmmmm....

BTW, can I bring a car with me to China? I will be working at the American Embassy so I will only be in country for a limited time. Thanks again!
 

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Definitions.....

Sorry, Cliff - I should define "seriously modified" and outer ring roads" (BTW, you can call me Jon). What is a "seriously modified" car here in China? More appearance related than performance related from what I understand. Lots of lower body ground effects, rear wings, stuff like that. Performance enhancements will include bigger wheels/tires, stiffer shocks, exhaust systems, octane boost (but very little nitrous oxide here), etc. SOME people will bore out their cylinders or bolt on turbochargers but that's getting to the upper end of mods. What people can afford to do these things? Young rich kids (remember, China still has a one child policy....so most kids have no siblings - and parents can focus their resources on one child) who get pretty much whatever they want from their parents. Also, Shanghai is the most active city in China for this sort of thing - and Shanghai is BY FAR the most "western" city in China. Beijing might be the government capital, but Shanghai is the place to be for business (i.e. lots of money), culture and western ideas. Let's ALSO remember that we're not talking about Dodge Vipers or Corvettes racing here.....the most popular cars for the "young" crowd would be the VW Polo (or Gol), Honda City, Chery QQ (the QQ is more for looks than performance), used Honda Accords, cars like this. My point is....street racing here isn't as FAST (for the most part) as it is in the USA. Engines are smaller (and less modified) so top speeds are slower - and about the only roads that you can really open up on are the ring roads and highways (and then only late at night). Speaking of that.....what IS a ring road???

That's easy - you're from Washington D.C. so just think of the beltway (I-495).........that's called a "ring road" here in China. We have one ring road here in Nanning.....Beijing has SIX (and two more are under construction). Shanghai has them too...and it's the outer ring roads (less crowded) where the racing takes place late at night (mostly Shanghai and Beijing).

Can you bring your car here to China? Yes, I suppose you could....it would depend on whether you plan on taking it back with you to the USA or selling it in China when you get ready to leave. If you want to sell it in China, you'll have to pay import taxes and other fees. The lowest octane gas here is 93 - that might be a bit rich for american cars used to 87. Some people DO bring their cars here...but most people will just BUY one here if they really need a car (and most foreigners don't need a car - taxis are cheap and plentiful and are going 24 hours a day). If you've put A LOT of investment into your car, I would probably leave it in the USA (if you have a place to store it) - you have a much higher chance of getting it nicked, scraped, dented, etc. over here.............keep that in mind. ALSO, unless you can keep it here within the Embassy walls (as far as parking at night) OR have a secure parking place for it............there is also a chance of it being STOLEN (car theft is on the rise in the big cities).

Well, I hope this answers a few more of your questions!! Remember......life IS different here (man, that's a loaded statement) and as long as you keep a open mind about things, you're going to LOVE living (and driving) in China! :thumb:
 

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There is the minor issue that modifying cars in china is illegal! Of course people still do it, and quite rightly, but every now and then there is a clampdown and all the people either stay at home or try to tone down the look of the car for a while.

bringing cars in is difficult, but i think if you are embassy staff then things are different

people to talk to about running tuned cars in china include chinadragonracing.com , chinalewis (on this forum, look in the motorsport posts) and rob at www.alchemypwr.com .

I used to run a chinese car with a pair of weber carbs, hi lift cam etc. but I'm back in england now. you can see some footage of track days at the shanghai tianma circuit on www.fightingtorque.com

there is a circuit in beijing do a search for beijing goldenport circuit, i've never been there but I understand it's quite good.

if you are a vw audi fan, then probably your simplest choice is a vw bora 1.8T (its based on the mk4, now obsolete elsewhere but I think its still in production in china) fairly mild changes will see these making 250hp. the problem is that nearly all the engine tuning stuff comes in from outside of china, either in your suitcase, or else you pay double what you would in the usa by the time you paid shipping, duty and the importing/sales guys.

problem for most foreigners is the short termism - it's difficult to justify throwing time and money at the car when you are expecting to be going home in a year and not planning to take it with you. takes some dedication.....
 
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