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SUVs are big in China

While the U.S. and other markets are favoring more fuel-efficient models, Chinese consumers are clamoring for the large interiors, big engines and high-tech frills of SUVs.

April 24, 2012|By David Pierson, Los Angeles Times

To sate demand more quickly, foreign automakers are looking to build more of their SUVs in China with their government-mandated local joint venture partners. Mercedes-Benz now manufactures its compact GLK sport utility vehicle in Beijing. Last month, BMW announced it would make the X1 with its Chinese partner in the northeastern city of Shenyang.

At the Beijing show, Auto China, which kicked off Monday under a dreary polluted haze, crowds flocked to see Chrysler's Jeep Wrangler Dragon concept vehicle — a menacing-looking black-and-gold SUV with the mythical Chinese creature airbrushed along its body.

Ford, which is playing catch-up to other foreign automakers in China, continued its aggressive expansion by introducing four SUVs to its lineup here: the Edge, Explorer, EcoSport and Kuga. The latter two compact SUVs will be built in China.

"With the fastest expanding market that we have here in China, to be present with really attractive SUV models is absolutely crucial," said Martin Smith, Ford's executive director of design.

david.pierson@latimes.com

Times staff writer Andrea Chang in Los Angeles and Nicole Liu in The Times' Beijing bureau contributed to this report.

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