BEIJING - China keeps getting better at making cars. One reason: It's getting better at cutting corners. Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co, one of China's biggest car makers, conducted 20 to 25 crash tests when it developed its popular Panda model, engineers involved in developing the car told Reuters. Global car makers typically conduct 125 to 150 crash tests for each new model. By relying more on computer simulations, Geely saved at least 200 million yuan (S$38.6 million) and two years in development time on the Panda, the engineers said.
Paring back on crash tests, skimping on frills, simplifying designs, using cheaper materials and, in a departure for the industry, outsourcing most of their design and engineering are having a profound effect on the cost bases of China's dozens of car makers. Some are now able to sell cheap and cheerful small cars for about 40,000 yuan - less than half the price of a plain vanilla Toyota.
Ten years ago, no discerning Chinese consumer would have bought China-designed cars. Not only were such vehicles accused of being illegal counterfeits of foreign models, but their quality and safety were also mistrusted.
Now, despite their homely looks, some indigenous models are striking a balance between no-frills affordability and acceptable quality. In China, it is the age of the good-enough car - and that has potentially significant implications for the world auto industry.
Models such as the Panda and the Great Wall Haval H3 are becoming popular not only in China but increasingly so in emerging markets, from Indonesia to Egypt and Ukraine. They are driving China's auto exports to record levels, even as growth in China's auto market slows down.