Hongqi Makes a Re-Entry at Shanghai Auto Show

May 6, 2013, By Sanjeev Ramachandran

The Shanghai Auto Show was able to grab eyes mainly due to the re-emergence of the Hongqi. The Hongqi, which means Red Flag, was first manufactured under the direction of Chairman Mao Zedong in 1958.

Coming under First Auto Works (FAW), it was China’s ride to take on the Rolls Royce. 55 years since it’s birth, the Hongqi has changed very little and stands with its trademark chromed grille work and Rolls Royce cabin.

The early Hongqis had a sluggish V8 that could generate only 197 horsepower. The first-generation Red Flag cars were primarily used to for shuttling foreign dignitaries and elite party members.

redflaglimousine

The production of the car was stopped in 1981 due to oil price issues. Then over the years, FAW tried three times to bring the Red Flag back to life, each time failing to do so.

Now, at a time when Mercedes and Audi rules the road, the Chinese government has hoisted the Red Flag back, with the hopes of wresting the market share from foreign entities like Audi. It is said that FAW would be investing 1.98 billion yuan (US$280 million) in the Red Flag project, and would be looking to drive out 30,000 units over the next year.

At the Shanghai Auto Show, three different variants of the Red Flag was shown. The majestic black and chrome L9 “civilian version”, the  L7 Hongqi and the L5.

The L9, reportedly priced at US$800,000, is 6.39 meters long (20.98 ft) by 2.02 meters (6.63 ft) wide and 1.72 meters (5.64 ft) tall. This big boy pulls at a 6.0 liter V12 engine, and has 400 hp and 550 Nm (406.65 lb.ft) of torque.

The middle variant, the L7 Hongqi, also has the same 400 horsepower V12 as the L9 but uses a smaller wheelbase. While the interior details are not up to scratch, the vehicle does look to have the offerings of most limousines.

The L5 is the smallest of the Red Flag with an even smaller wheelbase than the L7. Details regarding this vehicle’s powertrain are unknown, but it is thought that the L5 would be having a locally derived V8.

The Shanghai Show also showcased the most recent and contemporary of the series, the H7. This one looks to be molded on Toyota’s Crown Majesta and carry’s the tag:  “the official car for minister-level officials.”

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