China's unlikely honcho ride: A Buick minivan
What is the chariot of choice for high-flying Chinese business executives in need of an exclusive, luxurious ride to match their status? A Buick minivan, naturally.
That may not sound right, but Bloomberg reports that the Buick GL8 is so popular with corporate honchos in China that you often see them lined up outside expensive restaurants and the glitziest soirees.
"It is a perfect example of where one product can be revered in one country and reviled in another," IHS Automotive analyst Rebecca Lindland told the news service.
In China, Lindland said, the GL8 is "ubiquitous, like a Town Car in Manhattan or chauffeured limousine in L.A. The assumption is that someone important is in one."
According to LMC Automotive, sales of the $61,000 GL8 rose 28 percent last year to 66,900 -- more than twice that of the next best-selling foreign-brand minivan, the Honda Odyssey.
Allen Tsaur, Asia boss for Cooper Tire & Rubber in Shanghai, has leased four GL8s in the past decade.
"In the U.S., if you have a chief executive driving a minivan, it looks funny," Tsaur told Bloomberg. "Here, people accept that. It's become the norm."
Jochen Siebert, managing director of JSC Consulting in Shanghai, said a minivan makes sense in China because executives tend to travel with a larger entourage than their counterparts in Western countries.
The GL8, which has a lavish interior, was restyled in 2010 but is based on a vehicle architecture that dates back more than a decade.