New York Times. While China’s government is pressuring automakers to improve efficiency, China’s consumers are increasingly buying large sport utility vehicles and full-size luxury cars.
The shift of the Chinese market toward larger vehicles will probably push up the country’s already voracious demand for imported oil and make China an even bigger emitter of global warming gases. The trend toward big vehicles is being driven by rising incomes for China’s elite as well as government price controls on gasoline and diesel fuel that are keeping fuel prices below world levels as a way to limit broader inflation in the economy.
For the first two months of 2008, sales of sport utility vehicles in China were up 38 percent and sales of luxury cars climbed 30 percent compared with the corresponding period a year ago. By contrast, overall sales of cars, S.U.V.’s and minivans rose 16 percent.
...many auto executives are skeptical that Chinese consumers will be willing to pay considerably more for cars with hybrid engines and other alternative propulsion technologies while hybrids still account for less than one percent of the far more affluent American market. So unless the government heavily subsidizes vehicles with new technologies, their sales may be limited along with their effect on oil imports and emissions of global warming gases.