A model stands with a Hongqi C131. (File photo/Xinhua)
Beijing-based FAW Car, the passenger car division of First Auto Works, announced in August 2010 that it would spend 1.76 billion yuan (US$279.33 million) on developing the Hongqi C131, a model based on the Audi A6.
Rumors that luxury Hongqi cars could become the official vehicles of provincial minister-level officials could be true, the Guangzhou-based 21st Century Business Herald reported.
The vehicle is expected to be mass produced from the second half of this year, with an annual production of 30,000 cars projected for next year.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology published its 2012 catalog of party, government and public vehicles Feb. 24 to solicit public opinion. The Hongqi C131 was not included in the catalog.
The source said the catalog included only car models with a 1.8-liter engine or smaller and costing less than 180,000 yuan (US$28,600). The Hongqi C131's engine is more than 2.5 liters and is priced at the high end of the market.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Hongqi — "Red Flag" — cars were called the national vehicle and were used by all of the country's top leaders. However, their production was suspended in 1981 due to high gas consumption and costs.
Hongqi's sales performance has since been lackluster. Its sales peaked in June 2009, with 200 vehicles sold. Since May last year, not a single Hongqi Linux car has been sold.
A governmental plan to revitalize the car industry mandated in 2009 that independently-developed car brands account for more than 50% of the cars used by government agencies and public institutions.