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  Today, the official Weibo of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs published a concise but intriguing statement: Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s official vehicles will use domestic Hongqi sedans from today. This is less than 20 days before the launch of the Hongqi H7.

  In fact, the Red Flag is a model that has weathered great storms, in other words, it is also a portrayal of China’s industrial manufacturing. Before starting the article, it is worth briefly recalling the history of the Red Flag.

  First, the history and current situation of the red flag

  Founding and development period: 1958-1965

  In 1958, the leaders hoped that China would have high-end cars and wanted to rewrite the history that Chinese people could not make high-end cars, so the Hongqi brand was born with honor.

  It was not until 65 that Hongqi completed the accumulation from scratch and completed the initial accumulation of technology. Hongqi borrowed and imitated models mainly from the United States, and produced some sedans and inspection cars. The most classic model is the Hongqi CA72. Since then, the Hongqi CA770 high-end sedan has become a national-level courtesy car and a chief car above the Vice Premier of New China, becoming a veritable "national car".

  Stagnation period:

  During the Cultural Revolution that began in 1966, Hongqi CA72 was framed as a "belly car" due to the designer’s background and was persecuted.

  From 1965 to 1970, Hongqi went from imitation to autonomy. However, due to the "movement", Hongqi CA72 was forced to stop production after only a few hundred were produced. Subsequently, Hongqi developed the CA770 model, whose engine was designed with reference to the Cadillac engine. This model then formed a large number of derivative models, including China’s first bulletproof car CA772. However, due to the "political movement", although Hongqi had the right model during this time, production was seriously affected.

  Product lost period:

  From 1970 to 1981, Hongqi went to the road of technological upgrading, but the product failed. In 1972, FAW put forward the goal that it must catch up with the world’s advanced sedan level. In 1975, it produced the world-class car CA774-4E, with curved glass for the side windows of the body, high-strength thin steel plates for the body, four-speed automatic transmission for the gearbox, independent front and rear suspension, radial tires, power steering, and disc braking system. But for "some reason", the model did not pass the review.

  During the period of severe setbacks:

  From ’81 to’ 87, Hongqi went on the road of overseas cooperation. In ’81, German cars already had the intention to enter China, and Hongqi stopped production, but the research and development work has not stopped. During this period, there were negotiations with Nissan, Ford, Chrysler, and Audi to find the possibility of cooperation in mass production. However, due to various reasons, the cooperation with various companies came to an end. During the period, Chrysler maliciously defrauded and suffered heavy losses.

  From ’87 to’ 96, Hongqi once again went down the road of imitation. During these years, Hongqi imitated several foreign models, but for various reasons, they were not mass-produced. Overseas cooperation failed across the board, technicians were suppressed by managers, and the spirit of Hongqi had completely disappeared.

  From 1996 to 2008, Hongqi began to produce new models by OEM. The CA7220 was produced by imitating the Audi 100, the CA7460 was produced by imitating the Lincoln City, and the Hongqi Century Star was produced by imitating the Audi 200. At first, the engine was changed, but later the headlights were too lazy to move, so the new model was directly replaced. During this time, Hongqi never developed again.

  In 2008, Hongqi had a plan to revitalize Hongqi through independent research and development. It plans to produce a new model every year in the future, and it is self-service research and development. Last year, Hongqi H7 and L9 cars were seen at the auto show. On May 29 this year, Hongqi H7 was launched, priced 29.98-47 9,800.

  In fact, after seeing the development history of Hongqi, I feel that Hongqi sedan was a microcosm of China’s industry from its independent research and development in the early stage, to being hit, and then to being in a slump. And when it came to the joint venture period, FAW Group relied on Volkswagen to live, and the 55-year-old Hongqi sedan did not have the spirit of the year. This can be seen from the sales volume of the last two years: only 2 were sold in 2011 and 127 in 2012. It is estimated that these are all customized production, processed from the prototype workshop, and the cost is not cheap.

  Second, the red flag has the best opportunity

  In recent years, independent brands have continued to impact the high-end market, such as SAIC Roewe, FAW Pentium, etc., but the official car market is still controlled by Germany and Japan. Although they have surpassed Japanese and Korean mid-sized cars in some technologies and performance, the market response is still poor. If independent brand mid-sized cars can make a difference in the market, it will have strategic and positive significance for the growth of independent brands.

  After talking about history, let’s talk about the current situation of the red flag. The foreign minister’s car was replaced by the red flag and published on social media, which is quite profound. Does this prove that the state supports the red flag car in full swing? In fact, since the first lady’s visit, many independent brands have entered the best era.

  With the implementation of the "Double 18" official car purchase, automobile companies have also seen the potential of the official market. Hongqi, as the former boss, of course cannot be missed, so he started a series of plans: Zhang Xiaojun, the former executive deputy general manager of FAW-Volkswagen Audi Sales Division, who has served for 7 years, has become the general manager of FAW Car Sales Company, shouldering the heavy task of rebuilding the Hongqi brand. At the end of May this year, Hongqi’s high-end car H7 was launched. Enterprises are ready from the sales side and the product side, and the government has cleared the obstacles from the procurement side. This may be the best historical opportunity for Hongqi.

  III. Can red flags make ideals fly?

  Before Hongqi, there was no bright spot in technology, and the market positioning was in chaos. Hongqi is already a failed brand, which is an indisputable fact.

  At the technical level, in recent years, Hongqi’s strategy has been entirely based on existing foreign products. Chassis, engine, on the basis of prototype cars, modified to avoid patents, which is also a common problem before all independent enterprises. H7 claims to be purely independent research and development, and I personally think it is basically a mature model.

  Market level: Hongqi wants to copy Audi’s success in China too much, and everything is guided by Audi’s success precedent. Focusing on the high-end market, focusing on government procurement, hoping to promote this legendary brand from the top down. This can be seen from the executives transferred to Audi. There is a lack of luxury brands in the market for independent brands, and Hongqi happens to be a high-end government car. It has no choice but to take a detour a few years ago and make some four differences: technically pieced together, the market positioning is high or not, and the market positioning is not low. Home rental business government, where to use it is embarrassing. Now I finally woke up and started to focus on the high-end market. This strategy is also the only way out for Hongqi. If this strategy fails again, Hongqi can be said to never turn around.

  FAW’s plan is that once the government’s top management adopts the Hongqi as an official car, Audi’s market position will change accordingly (I am skeptical of this), and the Hongqi car will be changed overnight due to the market downturn caused by the loss of its leading car position. Although this idea is a bit simple, the beneficiaries of this change are not only Hongqi cars, but also the market position of the entire independent brand B-class car, and even greatly benefit the public’s confidence in the independent brand.

  But although the red flag is actively prepared, how to compete with Audi, BMW, Accord, Passat and other official cars? R & D, production, marketing, quality management, after-sales services, etc., are these red flags ready?

  In general, the recognition of the official vehicle market will take time, and the market side is even more difficult. Not to mention the popularity of German, Japanese, and American products, in addition to mandatory documents, local support cannot be ignored. The only worry now is FAW’s system, efficiency, and marketing integration capabilities. In the next five years, if Hongqi cannot come up with independent and excellent technology and models that conform to official and business temperament, it may be time for the Hongqi brand to disappear.

  Exchange email: yinxl2010@vip.163.com

  Disclaimer: The author of this article is a columnist, and the views expressed in this article are personal and cannot be representative of Autohome.

  The pictures in this article are from the Internet, thanks to the original author.