China has become the world’s largest auto market, so expect cars, even cars sold in the US, to have increasingly design features which cater to the China market. As national seurity strategist Tom Barnett puts it (here):
…When the global demand center shifts in an industry, everything changes for that industry. Now, it's Chinese tastes and desires that shape design, not so much the American consumer. Yes, some customization by market, but the underlying dynamics shift.
Justin Bergman’s Time article “Why Foreign Automakers Are Launching China-Only Designs” on the recent Shanghai Auto Show reports (here):
The Baojun 630 may never have the same iconic status in China as, say, Rolls-Royce, which had to employ bodyguards in black suits and white gloves to keep the camera-wielding throngs at bay. But GM has a more practical goal in mind. The no-frills car, based on an old Buick Excelle, sells for $10,700 to $13,800 and is the first to be launched under its new China-only Baojun brand. GM established the brand with two local partners in order to compete with low-cost domestic automakers like Geely and Chery and in hopes of doubling its China sales within five years.
GM isn't alone in this strategy. Other foreign automakers are also trying to boost their competitiveness by launching new midpriced brands for China, which overtook the U.S. to become the world's largest car market in 2009. Honda and its Chinese partner, GAC, created a brand called Everus, whose first subcompact, the S1, hit the market this month. Nissan and its partner Dongfeng unveiled a concept car at the Shanghai auto show for a new brand called Venucia, which they plan to launch in early 2012. And Volkswagen, which has had success with a China-only car called the Lavida that it introduced in 2008, is now in talks to set up a new brand in the country, as are Peugeot, BMW and Toyota.
The financial incentive for the foreign automakers seems apparent. China, after all, has a massive emerging middle class whose first car purchases are more likely to be lower-end Cherys than more expensive models like Chevrolet Malibus or Honda Accords. But analysts say other factors might be at play. For years, the Chinese government has been eager to develop Chinese brands that can compete on a global stage, and having failed to achieve that, it may be pushing foreign automakers to give its domestic car industry a leg up….
The Financial Times’ coverage of the Shanghai Auto Show also noted the impact of the China market on general car design in Patti Waldmeir's article "China's influence on car design accelerates" (here):
But the Chinese car boom is shaping the look of some mass-market cars too.
When General Motors designed its LaCrosse saloon, the brand, which is popular in China, devised a roomy and plush rear seat of the kind that Chinese owners – many of whom have chauffeurs – prefer.