The Hongqi is on the comeback, the Associated Press explains, with new limos going into production this past spring. Car News China, a China-based site focusing on the country's automotive industry, says that the L5 version of the limo debuted in April. The cars largely disappeared in the 1980s, but "now Beijing is reviving the brand to its former glory as a rolling chrome-and-steel embodiment of national pride and ambition," the AP reports.
What do national pride and ambition have to do with four wheels and a ton of steel? Well, just take a look at what's been happening in Detroit. Ever since the bailout of GM and Chrysler, President Obama has equated national pride with a robust homegrown auto industry. These days, words like "powerhouse" are being thrown around to describe the invigorated U.S. auto industry, in what is supposed to be taken as a sign of our overall economic resurgence.
And the red-flag limo is a crucial symbol of Chinese might, the AP reports:
The giant homegrown sedans were once among the most distinctive icons of the People's Republic. Chairman Mao Zedong perched in the back of one to inspect Red Guards in the 1960s. President Richard Nixon rode through Beijing in one during his breakthrough 1972 visit. Bob Hope rode in one too, and was mysteriously told that the trunk was off-limits.
China's officials' taste for BMW and Mercedes Benz cars are well known—in 2009, there was an uproar when those two brands were added to the list of "official" government vehicles, according to the Global Times.
"I think it would be odd to promote the China Dream with senior officials riding around in foreign limousines, so it seems to me to be a natural extension of (Xi's) desire to boost respect and prestige for the made-in-China brand of the revolution," a China expert at Harvard told the AP. "If Hongqi is able to succeed with officials, this may also have a positive impact for the private car market," another added.
The more modest versions of the Hongqi fleet for about $50,000 and the top of line L9 model, complete with an armored chassis, is reportedly sold for $800,000.