Last weekend marked the beginning of the massive Auto China 2014 show in Beijing, and many automakers held special events to unveil new models.
GM and Ford both aim to sell a "global" lineup of vehicles. Many of the models sold here in the U.S. are sold in much of the rest of the world. That reduces costs, thanks to much larger economies of scale.
It also makes for better products: Because of those economies of scale, Ford and GM can invest more time and money into each vehicle.
But there are still some exceptions to that rule. Automakers prefer to make their cars close to where they're sold whenever possible to avoid taxes on imported vehicles (which are very steep in China) and save on shipping costs.
That gives them the opportunity to produce variations of their global models that are tweaked or modified for local tastes, if there's sufficient demand.
Here are a few that will be rolling out in China, but (probably) won't be coming to the U.S.
A rugged Ford SUV that won't come to America
What's this? A Ford SUV that won't come to America?
Yes indeed. That vehicle up at the top of the page is the Ford Everest. It's just a concept vehicle right now, so I can't tell you a lot about what it'll be like when it goes into production. Ford didn't say anything about its engine, for instance, or its price.
But it's a safe bet that Ford plans to introduce something very close to this within a year or two -- at least, in China.
The Everest is roughly the size of a Ford Explorer, but it's very different. It's far more rugged, for starters, with true off-road capability -- it's more truck-like than the current Explorer.
It was created by a Ford design team in Australia with emerging markets in mind. I expect that it'll be a lot less sophisticated inside than an American Explorer, and it'll be designed to be affordable and durable in hard use.
An all-new Chevy Cruze, but it's not like our Cruze
The Chevrolet Cruze is a steady seller for GM in China. It's offered in a few different variations that aren't sold here in the U.S., but it's basically the same car we see on American roads.
That'll change soon. GM last week rolled out this all-new Chevrolet Cruze. It's built on a brand-new global platform and includes a long list of high-tech features.
It's an impressive product. Meanwhile, the week before last, in New York GM unveiled a refreshed version of the existing Chevy Cruze. It's just a mildly face-lifted version of the current model -- a solid car but nothing really new.
What's the deal? Why does China get a new Cruze while Americans make do with the current one?
The answer is that we will get it eventually, but it'll be different from this one. China gets it first because the current Cruze (which was originally developed in Korea, by the way) has been on sale there for longer than it has been sold here.
Our new Cruze is coming, but it's not ready. The U.S. Cruze will share that same all-new GM platform and much of the technology, but it'll look different, we're hearing, and it could have a longer wheelbase. Expect to hear more about it in another year or two.
The all-new Ford Escort
Yes, it's a Ford Escort. It has a familiar old name, but this is a new model for Ford. CEO Alan Mulally says that it's a car that could be sold all over the world, but it was designed for China.
And while it's a new model, it's built on familiar bones. The Escort is basically a Focus sedan that has been changed a bit inside and out to cater to Chinese customers' needs.
Ford's sales in China have boomed over the last couple of years, and the Focus has led the way. In fact, the Focus is regularly one of China's best-selling cars.
But Ford has heard from some Chinese customers who consider the Focus a little too flashy. Enter the Escort, which is a simpler, toned-down version of the Focus. The body panels are new, and simpler than those on the Focus.
It's also different inside. The Escort has more room in the back seat than the Focus. That's important in China. Americans tend to think of the backseat as a place for kids, but in China, it's often a place for Grandma, too.
Sometimes it's even a place for the car's owner -- it's common for Chinese businesspeople who work in cities to hire drivers to deal with the country's crazy urban traffic, while the owner rides in the back.
So will the Escort come to the U.S.? It could, but it probably won't. Most Americans would just buy a Focus instead.
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