Bosnia & Herzegovina July 2016: Fiat Punto soars to 2nd place

Fiat Punto Bosnia July 2016. Picture courtesy of Fiat Punto is up to #2 in Bosnia & Herzegovina in July.

* See the Top 10 best-selling models by clicking on the title *

Based on information shared with us by Central European market data specialists CE Auto, the Bosnian new car market is up by a whopping 40% year-on-year in July to 743 registrations, lifting the year-to-date total up 25% to 5.211 units. The VW Golf cements its domination with 5.5% share this month and 5.9% year-to-date, and is followed this month by the Fiat Punto, soaring from outside the Top 10 directly into 2nd place with 5.1% share. The Renault Clio, VW Passat and Opel Astra round up the Top 5 while the Skoda Yeti and Hyundai Tucson break into the monthly Top 10 and the Dacia Duster into the YTD Top 10.

Previous month: Bosnia & Herzegovina June 2016: VW Golf and Opel Astra in charge

One year ago: Bosnia & Herzegovina July 2015: VW Passat jumps to #1

Full July 2016 Top 10 models ranking below.


Rep of Macedonia July 2016: Citroen C-Elysée best-seller again

Citroen C-Elysee Rep of Macedonia July 2016The Citroen C-Elysée is the best-selling vehicle in the Republic of Macedonia in July. 

* See the Top 10 best-selling models by clicking on the title *

According to Central European market data specialists CE Auto, 451 new cars found a buyer in the Republic of Macedonia in July, adding up to 3.156 units so far this year. If the Dacia Duster remains the best-selling vehicle in the country year-to-date, it drops outside the July Top 10 and is now threatened by the VW Passat, lurking just one sale below. Like in May, the Citroen C-Elysée is the most popular car in the Republic of Macedonia with 6.2% market share. It distances the Kia Sportage, VW Passat, Opel Astra and VW Golf, with the Ford Focus and Skoda Fabia making a rare appearance inside the Top 10.

Previous post: Rep of Macedonia May 2016: Citroen C-Elysée surges to top spot

One year ago: Rep of Macedonia May-June 2015: Citroen C-Elysée impresses

Full June and July 2016 Top 10 models rankings below.


Moldova July 2016: Mercedes GLE now in year-to-date Top 10

Mercedes GLE Moldova July 2016Mercedes GLE

* See the Top 10 best-selling models by clicking on the title *

Based on data published by Central European market data specialists CE Auto, new car sales in Moldova are stable in July, up just 1% to 303 registrations, leading to a year-to-date total up 9% on the same period in 2015 to 2.137. The Dacia Logan reclaims the year-to-date leadership (it tied with the Hyundai Tucson as of last month) thanks to 8.3% share in July and 7.8% so far in 2016 with the Hyundai Tucson tucked into 2nd place in both July and YTD. The Hyundai Accent surges to 3rd place over, with the Santa Fe at #5 making it an impressive three Hyundais in the Moldovan Top 5. The Toyota RAV4 is up to #4, the VW Passat up to #8 and although it doesn’t appear in the July Top 10, the Mercedes GLE now ranks #10 year-to-date in Moldova, the only country in the world where it does so.

Previous month: Moldova June 2016: Dacia Logan reclaims throne

One year ago: Moldova July 2015: Dacia Logan resumes domination

Full July 2016 Top 10 models ranking below.


Kenya First Half 2016: Isuzu KB threatens Toyota Hilux for #1

Isuzu KB Kenya June 2016The Isuzu KB is only 27 sales away from the Kenyan pole position in 2016 so far. 

* See the Top 10 best-selling brands and models by clicking on the title *

6.946 new vehicles found a buyer in Kenya over the First Half of 2016. This is one of the rare African markets where Toyota isn’t #1. Instead, Isuzu holds a commanding 31.9% market share (vs. 30.4% over Q1), Mitsubishi is in 2nd place with 17.9% (vs. 19%) and Toyota comes in third at 16.9% (vs. 17.3%). This order has a lot to do with the fact that Kenyan data includes medium and heavy trucks, a segment where Isuzu dominates. Indian manufacturer Tata, Nissan, Mercedes and Ford follow while Scania kicks Land Rover out of the Top 10. In the models ranking (excluding medium and heavy trucks), the Toyota Hilux keeps the best-seller crown at 7.9% share (vs. 9% over Q1) but the Isuzu KB is fast catching up at 7.5% vs. 6.7%. Only 27 sales separate the two nameplates. The Toyota Land Cruiser 70 rounds up the podium ahead of the Ford Ranger, Toyota Prado and Nissan NP300 Hardbody. The Mitsubishi L200 and Mahindra Bolero make it 6 pickups in the Top 10.

Previous post: Kenya First Quarter 2016: Eight pickups in Top 10

One year ago: Kenya H1 2015: Toyota Hilux teases Land Cruiser 70 for #1

Full H1 2016 Top 10 brands and models below.


Malawi First Half 2016: Hilux tightens stranglehold in market up 20%

Toyota Hilux Malawi June 2016. Picture courtesy in five new vehicles sold in Malawi so far this year is a Toyota Hilux.  

* See the Top 10 best-selling brands and models by clicking on the title *

New vehicle sales in Malawi are up an encouraging 20% year-on-year to 841 units. The Top 3 brands hold a mammoth 70.6% of the market, with Toyota still in the driving seat at 43.9%. Ford (-10%) holds onto the #2 spot by the skin of its teeth: it sells one more unit than Nissan (+8%) in third place. Mitsubishi (+567%), Tata (+17%) and Volkswagen (+150%) follow whereas Kia (-49%) implodes. Premium brand Audi rounds up the Top 10. Model-wise, the Toyota Hilux strengthens its stranglehold on the market with deliveries up 37% to 174 for a 20.7% share, distancing the Ford Ranger (-14%) and Toyota Land Cruiser (+4%). The Toyota Corolla is up 88% to #5, the Mitsubishi Triton soars to #8 and the VW Amarok remains inside the Top 10 at #9.

Previous post: Malawi Q1 2016: Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger dominate

One year ago: Malawi First Half 2015: Toyota Hilux fights off Ford Ranger

Full H1 2016 Top 10 brands and models below.


Angola January-May 2016: Fiat Panda triumphs

Fiat Panda Angola May 2016. Picture courtesy of largus,frThe Fiat Panda is the best-selling light vehicle in Angola so far in 2016. 

* See the Top 10 best-selling brands and models by clicking on the title *

The new light vehicle market in Angola is limited to 4.779 sales over the first 5 months of 2016, a figure to be compared to the 13.581 units sold over the first 6 months of 2015. The brands ranking is completely reshuffled, with Toyota taking the lead at 16.4% share vs. 14.8% a year ago and Fiat making its appearance in the sales charts at a stunning 2nd place with 12.8% share. Hyundai, Ford and Suzuki – market leader in 2015 – round up the Top 5. A big surprise awaits in the models ranking: the Fiat Panda takes the overall lead thanks to 232 sales, edging past the 2015 leader the Suzuki Alto 800 at 229 units while the Ford Ranger surges from #12 a year ago directly to #3. The Mazda BT-50, Fiat Doblo and Toyota Yaris also shine.

Previous post: Angola Full Year 2015: Suzuki Alto 800 and Chevrolet N300 reign

One year ago: Angola H1 2015: Suzuki Alto and Chevrolet N300 on top

Full January-May 2016 Top 10 brands and models below.


Uganda First Half 2016: Hilux #1, Mitsubishi L200 soars to #2

Mitsubishi Uganda June 2016. Picture courtesy Mitsubishi L200 ranks #2 in Uganda so far this year. 

* See the Top 10 best-selling brands and models by clicking on the title *

The Ugandan new light vehicle market is up 15.5% year-on-year over the first half of 2016 to 1.463 units. Toyota remains master in command with 39.3% of the market thanks to deliveries up 22%, distancing Mitsubishi at 15.9% (+36%) and both Tata (-24%) and Ford (+40%) at 9.8% share. Nissan, Isuzu and Great Wall follow. Model-wise, the Toyota Hilux continues its domination and improves its market share to 21.6% thanks to sales up 44%, but the Mitsubishi L200 grows faster at +94% to 13.7% share. The Ford Ranger makes the Ugandan podium 100% pickup and the Toyota Land Cruiser 70 and Prado complete the Top 5, just above the Great Wall Wingle.

Previous post: Uganda Full Year 2015: Toyota Hilux #1, Pickups hold 54% share

One year ago: Uganda 1st Half 2015: Top 4 best-sellers are all pickup trucks

Full H1 2016 Top 10 brands and models below.


Photo Report: Driving a Fiat Panda through Sardinia, Italy

Panda Blu sunsetEsmeralda, our “Panda blu”

After exploring remote areas of the Chinese Sichuan Province, we now fly over to the European summer, more precisely in Sardinia, an Italian island located west of the mainland and south of the French Corsica island in the Mediterranean Sea. Our itinerary goes around the island anticlockwise, starting and ending in Olbia on the north-eastern coast and exploring such wonders as the Costa Smeralda, the jetset cities of Porto Rotondo and Porto Cervo, the stunning archipelago of La Maddalena…

1. Fiat 500X Bosa SardiniaFiat 500X and Lancia Ypsilon in Bosa, Sardinia (click on any picture to enlarge).

… Santa Teresa de Gallura from where we can clearly see the Corsican coast, Castelsardo, Alghero, Bosa, San Salvatore, Cagliari, Terra Male and Cala Gonone (see map below). It’s a total of 1.450km over six days – many thanks to Audrey for putting on the driving cap every second day. Our ride in Sardinia is, logically, a rental Fiat Panda. The Panda is the current best-selling vehicle in Italy with 8% market share and sales up 23% so far in 2016, but also the #1 vehicle in the rental car sales charts in 2015.

Sardinia mapThe itinerary: from Olbia to Olbia, via Alghero, Bosa and Cagliari.

After Albert the Ram 1500 in our U.S. Coast to Coast 2014 exploration, Bob the Ram 2500 in our U.S. North to South 2015 Report, Charlie the Jeep Wrangler in our Hawaii 2016 Report and Damo the Haval H8 of our Australian Outback adventure, the next BSCB ride had to get a name starting with E. We chose to baptise our “Panda blu” Esmeralda, the first female name we choose at BSCB, simply because this is the first “car” we drive as opposed to the “trucks” we had before. In French, my native language, a car is feminine and a truck is masculine, and therein lies the rationale behind all our name choices.

2. Fiat Panda Cagliari SardiniaFiat Panda II in CagliariFiat Panda Bosa SardiniaFiat Panda I in Bosa

But why “Panda blu” I hear you ask. Upon arriving long after sunset in the tiny northern village of Aglientu, we asked our way to a group of Italian mammas gossiping on the sidewalk. One of them promptly picked up her mobile phone to directly call the manager of the accommodation we were staying at and give her directions to come pick us up. Description of our car: “una panda blu” – said in the endearing singing voice of all Italian mammas. That would be because our Panda was blue (same pronunciation in Italian). We thought it rang well, even better than Esmeralda. So it would be our “Panda blu” from then on. But patience: the full Panda blu review is further down in this article.

Fiat Panda Palau Sardinia 2Fiat Panda III in PalauFiat Seicento Bosa SardiniaFiat Seicento and Panda I in Bosa

The most frequent nameplates spotted over the entirety of the trip, from various tiny town streets to large autostradas, were without a second thought the Fiat Panda followed by the Punto, in this way reflecting the past decade of new car sales in Italy as a whole and aligning Sardinia with the rest of the country. The Panda has indeed just overstepped the Punto for the first time in the Past decade sales charts (see table below). All generations of the two nameplates are very well represented, but a striking observation is the high frequency of first generation Pandas (1980-2003) compared to the near-absence of any Fiat Uno (1983-1995). Granted, the Uno had a much shorter lifespan but it obliterated the Italian sales charts then, culminating at 23.8% share in 1986.

Best-selling nameplates in Italy – Past decade (2006-2015):

Pos Model 2006-2015
1 Fiat Panda 1,370,026
2 Fiat Punto 1,366,027
3 Ford Fiesta 673,429
4 Lancia Ypsilon 539,357
5 Fiat 500 490,096
6 VW Golf 468,922
7 Citroen C3 433,532
8 Toyota Yaris 414,806
9 Opel Corsa 401,772
10 VW Polo 374,272

Source: UNRAE

Time has passed since that domination though, and not many Unos have survived up to this day. Instead, the first generation Panda, inside the annual podium during most of its 24 year-career (it ranked #2 in 2002!), has left a much stronger mark on today’s Sardinian car landscape. The 2nd generation Panda, #2 in Italy during its entire career (20042011), is the most frequent vehicle on the Sardinian coast, slowly being caught up by the 3rd gen which has led its home market without interruption since its first full year of sales in 2012, ending then 18 consecutive years of Punto domination.

Citroen Mehari La Maddalena SardiniaCitroen Méhari in La Maddalena.

During all our worldwide explorations, we often declare cars as the heroes of a specific region as they appear to be particularly successful there. Sardinia has two heroes.

1. Citroen Méhari

Just as the cumbersome e-Mehari makes its entrance in Europe, the first Sardinian hero is the valiant Citroen Méhari (1968-1988), a kind of ancestor to the off-road convertible SUV. This observation is particularly valid in the archipelago of La Maddalena, in a way an island of an island. Méharis stream through La Maddalena, the main town of the island, to the point that it’s not uncommon to have at least one in our field of vision at any given time – see picture below with 3 Méharis “at once”. The perfect summer car even almost 50 years after its original launch and 28 after its discontinuation, the Méhari would remain a surprising symbol of this Sardinian trip.

Citroen Mehari x3 La Maddalena SardiniaThere are three Citroen Méharis on this picture – in La Maddalena.

For a bit of history, 144.953 Méharis were produced in twenty years. Originally, a méhari is a fast-running camel which can be used for racing or transport, this according to Wikipedia. The Méhari weighs just 535 kg (1,179 lb), has a body made of ABS plastic with a soft top and is based on the Citroen Dyane 6. It employs the 602cc flat twin petrol engine shared with the 2CV6 and Citroen Ami, similarly to the way the mechanical parts of the 1960 Mini became the 1964 Mini Moke. And it’s fair to say Sardinians are still in love with this endearing vehicle. Plus, my observations throughout the island showed the Citroen brand surprisingly strong with a continuous stream of 1st gen C3, the C-Elysée already common as well as many C3 Picasso, new C4 Picasso and 1st gen Xsara Picasso.

Land Rover Defender Bosa SardiniaLand Rover Defender in Bosa
Land Rover Defender San Salvatore SardiniaLand Rover Defender in San Salvatore 

2. Land Rover Defender

Second hero of the island, the just discontinued Land Rover Defender was a true surprise. Sardinia has a very modern road network serving the very touristy coastline, and the first impression is that this shouldn’t require any vehicle to have any particular 4WD abilities. But once venturing inland it’s a vastly different story. In no time, the network transforms into tiny winding roads making their way up the relatively high mountains populating the centre of the island, notwithstanding a multitude of rocky dirt tracks that we did not dare explore. The Defender thus became a staple of the Sardinian inland, along with its license plates always starting with ZA. This is not a separate 4WD categorisation as I first thought, rather the mandatory lettering when your rear plate is square – one of the many intricacies of the Italian license plates system.

Citroen C1 Land Rover Defender Bosa SardiniaCitroen C1 in Bosa
Fiat Panda 500 Palau SardiniaFiat Panda and 500 in Palau

Italy Full Year 2015 – sales to rental companies:

Pos Model 2015 % % rental /14 2014 % Pos
1 Fiat Panda 24,726 7.9% 20% -6% 26,346 10.0% 1
2 Fiat 500L 22,721 7.3% 46% 10% 20,656 7.8% 2
3 Fiat 500 13,615 4.4% 33% -20% 17,046 6.4% 3
4 Peugeot 308 9,130 2.9% 51% n/a n/a n/a n/a
5 VW Golf 8,799 2.8% 22% 14% 7,722 2.9% 6
6 Fiat 500X 8,196 2.6% 25% new 0 0.0%
7 Fiat Punto 7,739 2.5% 14% -36% 12,003 4.5% 4
8 Alfa Romeo Giulietta 7,329 2.3% 32% 32% 5,539 2.1% 9
9 Lancia Ypsilon 7,251 2.3% 13% -12% 8,240 3.1% 5
10 Renault Clio 7,182 2.3% 17% 10% 6,529 2.5% 7

Source: UNRAE

Being a touristic hotspot, the Sardinian car park is heavily influenced by rental cars such as our Panda blu, with the Fiat Panda incidentally the most popular vehicle with Italian rental companies in 2015 ahead of the Fiat 500L, for which a staggering 46% of its 2015 total sales are to rental companies (see table above). Only the Peugeot 308 does “better” (51%) in the Top 10. Up 10% last year vs. a 6% drop by the Panda, the 500L should logically take the lead of the rental sales charts this year, and indeed it is omnipresent on Sardinian roads, as well as the facelifted Fiat 500, #3 rental in 2015. The Fiat 500X is also strong in Sardinia, but at 25% rental ratio it falls closer to the national average (20%) which could indicate it is also particularly successful with private buyers here.

Alghero street scene SardiniaStreet scene in Alghero

Another striking observation in Sardinia – even though it is true in the whole of Italy – is the prevalence of station wagons in the larger car segments. For example, the new generation VW Passat is extremely frequent on Sardinian roads – partly because of its popularity as a rental car – yet I only spotted one sedan in six days. All the rest, probably close to fifty specimens, were station wagons. Even though the station wagon segment has been hit full frontal by the SUV craze and in sharp decline in the whole of Europe bar Sweden, sales in Italy remain solid at 87.614 over the first 7 months of 2016, a whopping 17% year-on-year increase earning it a stable 7.4% market share. The Audi A4 is the best-seller so far in 2016 but it will be interesting to follow the launch of the Tipo SW over the 2nd half of the year as it is the only true Italian offer in a particularly successful segment, and therefore could be destined to huge success.

Italy 7 months 2016 – station wagon sales:

Pos Model 7m 2016 % % SW /15 7m 2015 % Pos
1 Audi A4 8,131 9.3% 90% 56% 5,210 7.0% 4
2 Peugeot 308 7,942 9.1% 59% 21% 6,545 8.7% 1
3 VW Passat 6,386 7.3% 90% 21% 5,268 7.0% 3
4 Ford Focus 6,319 7.2% 61% 9% 5,781 7.7% 2
5 Renault Clio 5,925 6.8% 18% 38% 4,284 5.7% 5
6 BMW 3 Series 5,798 6.6% 81% 44% 4,026 5.4% 7
7 Skoda Octavia 4,657 5.3% 95% 17% 3,987 5.3% 8
8 Opel Astra 4,603 5.3% 56% 10% 4,203 5.6% 6
9 Toyota Auris 3,796 4.3% 58% 12% 3,382 4.5% 10
10 VW Golf 3,177 3.6% 11% 6% 2,999 4.0% 11

Source: UNRAE

The Renault Clio (#5) is the only small car in the Top 10 SW with 1 in 5 Clio sold being a station wagon, and this is confirmed looking at the Sardinian car landscape: the occurrence of Clio SW is a lot higher than at home in France for example. Compact cars occupy five spots in the Top 10 including the Peugeot 308 at #2 (#1 in 2015) and the Ford Focus at #3 with an average of 60% SW ratio except for the Golf (11%). Larger cars are almost exclusively sold as station wagons in Italy and this is a particularity of the local market: no other market in the world behaves this way. Confirming my observations in Sardinia, 90% of Audi A4 and VW Passats are sold as SW, 81% of BMW 3 Series and 95% of Skoda Octavia…

Jeep Renegade La Maddalena SardiniaJeep Renegade in La MaddalenaRenault Clio Bosa SardiniaRenault Clio in Bosa

Sardinian new car sales outpaced Italy as a whole in 2015 at +18% to 25.293 units vs. +16% nationwide. The largest provinces are Cagliari at 9.886 (+18%), Sassari at 6.131 (+24%), Olbia-Tempio at 2.225 (-0.6%) and Carbonia Iglesias at 1.943 (+26%). The smallest is Ogliastra at 603 (+33%). Other popular vehicles across the island include the Jeep Renegade – particularly in La Maddalena as pictured above, the Renault Clio and Captur, Smart Forfour and the Fiat Tipo sedan already although I spotted only one hatch all week.

Panda Blu Sicily by CarOur Panda blu.

Our Panda blu was a rental from Sicily by Car (weird) – by far the cheapest option at 309.75€ for 6 days (US$346) – and a solid companion all through the trip, with no gremlins to report. Sitting inside places you too high in the car – regardless of your height – and the seat is not adjustable that way. There is no USB port which meant no personal music the entire trip, only a… CD player as if tourists were still travelling around with all their music on CDs. The interior design on the other hand is one of the strengths of the car: it’s modern yet playful while replicating the rounded square theme that characterises the car as a whole (headlights…), such as for the hand brake.

Panda Blu detailPanda Blu interior detail: it has its name written all over it… 

Very creative: the letters of the word PANDA make up the texture of the console and interior door top skin (see picture above). Definitely some Italian design flair here. The gear shift placed on the central console – and not on the ground – ends up being quite comfortable in the long run. Pushing our Panda blu to 145 km/h (90 mph) resulted in no notable vibrating or shaking of the car but the small bumps on the autostrada sent the car’s backend a little loose – scary. Above 100 km/h (62 mph), a strident whistling makes its apparition at the base of the driver door window frame, potentially the result of imperfect joints. The car remains relatively silent at high speed though.

Panda Blu Ferry SardiniaOur Panda blu on the Palau-La Maddalena ferry

The overall impression is one of practicality and fun modernity, a car that will do the job and put a smile on your face while driving, all-in-all a very good result given the cut-throat starting price of 8.250€ (US$ 9.230) the Panda is offered at in Italy. No wonder it’s the best-seller here.

Fiat Multipla Cagliari SardiniaFiat Multipla in Cagliari
Maserati Levante Porto Cervo SardiniaMaserati Levante in Porto Cervo
Audi Costa Smeralda SardiniaAudi advertising in Porto CervoAutostrada 50kph limitation Sardinia50km/h speed limit on the “autostrada”

Finally, I couldn’t end this summer Photo Report without a few hand-picked particularities of Sardinia, with an automotive angle of course. Firstly, the autostradas are new and very well maintained, but sometimes tout a 50km/h (31 mph) speed limit… Given the frequency of ridiculously low speed limits popping up everywhere on the island, we came to the conclusion that it was the only way the Sardinian police had found to shock drivers into driving slightly slower. It’s not working: a rule-of-thumb is that it is ok to drive at 3 times the speed limit. 30km/h means 90, 50 means 150, etc… Yep, this is the wild, wild west.
Talking about the wild west, every service station has at least one bay where staff is supposed to fill up your tank for you, at a premium. You must try and find the bay that says “piuself” as sometimes the price difference per litre can verge on the nasty side of outrageous: one Esso servo had a self-serve price of 1.389 € per litre whereas the “rip-off” price was 1.639 €/L, with no indications anywhere whatsoever and no staff to serve you anywhere anyway! Advice from experience: make sure to read the price/L on the actual pump before starting to fill up. Sneaky, but we are in Italy after all.

Mini WoodyClubman by Castagna Porto Cervo SardiniaMini WoodyClubman by Castagna Porto Cervo Sardinia 2Mini WoodyClubman by Castagna in Porto Cervo

The Photo Report continues below with the remainder of the 40 Pictures.


China 2016 Photo Reports: The cars of Tagong and Daocheng Airport

Wuling Hongguang Tagong 5The Wuling Hongguang dominates the Tagong car landscape.

This is the 12th and last instalment in our 2016 Chinese adventures after BeijingXining in the Qinghai province, the Chinese car dealerships of XiningTongrenXiahe in the Gansu province, the mountain road back from Xiahe to XiningChengdu in the Sichuan provinceKangdingthe Kangding to Dégé road, the Chola Pass and Dégé.

China map with Tagong and DaochengLocation of Tagong and Daocheng in China – connected with the yellow line. 

At 3.700 metres altitude (12.139 ft), small Tagong (aka Lhagang) is home to just under 9.000 inhabitants. It is surrounded by stunning grasslands and monastery galore. This is the county of yak butter tea and mani stones carved with the mantra of Buddha’s path. The Lhagang Monastery and Ser Gyergo nunnery lost in the grassland are two of the main attractions here.

Jya Drolma and Gayla's GuesthouseTagong MonasteryTagong snaps Chana ZX Auto Pickup TagongChana and ZX Auto Pickups in Lhagang Monastic school.Tagong street sceneTagong streetDongfeng Rich TagongDongfeng Rich on Tagong’s main square

As for the car park in town, once again it is obliterated by the Wuling Hongguang, not as a private car but a shared minivan to link the small town to its surroundings: numerous monasteries, Kangding or other towns closeby. A few pickups, including a shining new bright yellow Dongfeng Rich pictured above, remind us we are well in the countryside. Formerly very quiet, Tagong shakes every time a Dongfeng or Howo heavy truck roars through its main artery blaring its horns at full volume so that everyone runs out of the way and they don’t have to slow down…

Tagong street scene 5Tagong’s main squareMG GS TagongMG GS Tagong street scene 2Monks in TagongBrilliance V3 TagongBrilliance V3 and Wuling Hongguang Wuling Hongguang Tagong 2Wuling HongguangDaocheng Yading AirportDaocheng Yading Airport

Getting to the nearby Daocheng Yading Airport isn’t a very easy task: first I need a private minivan to get me to Kangding Airport 50km away, then a very short flight lands me at Daocheng Yading, the highest civilian airport in the world, altitude 4.411 metres (14.472 ft). The previous record-holder, Qamdo Bamda Airport is also closeby across in Tibet at 4.334 metres (14.219 ft). The airport is less than 3 years old as it opened in September 2013. It cuts the journey time between Daocheng and Chengdu to one hour, instead of two days by bus… There, it’s an armada of new gen VW Jetta taxis that are waiting patiently in the airport’s parking.

This report concludes our 2016 China Photo Reports, we hope you have enjoyed travelling with us as much as we did exploring these places and writing about it. We’ll explore yet another region of China after the 2017 Shanghai Auto Show next April!

VW Jetta Daocheng Yading AirportVW Jetta taxi armada in Daocheng Yading Airport 

The Photo Report continues below with a total 20 pictures.

China 2016 Photo Reports: The cars of Dégé, Sichuan Province

1. Wuling Rongguang DegeWuling Rongguang in Dégé, Sichuan Province.

After climbing the legendary Chola Pass, we now arrive at the small town of Dégé. This is the 11th instalment in our 2016 Chinese adventures after BeijingXining in the Qinghai province, the Chinese car dealerships of XiningTongrenXiahe in the Gansu province, the mountain road back from Xiahe to XiningChengdu in the Sichuan provinceKangding, the Kangding to Dégé road and the Chola Pass.

China map with DegeLocation of Dégé in ChinaDégé townTraditional Tibetan houses in Dégé

Dégé, altitude 3.262 metres (10.702 ft) and population 58.600, is known for its printing monastery dating back to 1792. It is an ongoing printing operation that still uses traditional woodblock manual printing methods, and can print an astounding 70% of Tibet’s literary heritage thanks 320.000 scripture plates resting in storage chambers. Observing the lightning fast moves and meditative prayers of the army of printers working in a maelstrom of paper, ink and wood blocks is an utterly fascinating experience.

Wuling Hongguang Dege 7

2. Wuling Hongguang Dege 1

Wuling Hongguang Dege 5

Wuling Hongguang Dege 3

Wuling Hongguang Dege 2

Wuling Hongguang Dege 6

Wuling Hongguang Dege 4Wuling Hongguang’s are everywhere in town.

As is was the case all the way from Kangding, the Wuling Hongguang is master in command in the Dégé car landscape, used everywhere as shared minivan. The all-new S1 variant is already present here, as pictured at the start of the Hongguang photo series above. In these parts of China, the Hongguang is almost always white and very often adorned with “sporty” red and grey stickers on the side.

3. Liebao Black King DegeLiebao Black EditionJiangnan Alto DegeJiangnan Alto

As we’re getting closer to the Tibetan Province and the border with India, the taste in private cars also moves to a closer picture of these two neighbours. The Liebao Black Edition is extremely popular in town. It’s a 1990s Mitsubishi Pajero manufactured locally under license and the overall best-seller in Tibet in 2014. The newer Leopaard Q6 (the new name of the brand) is also and logically successful here. Also, the Jiangnan Alto, the cheapest new car available in China at 19.600 yuan (US$2.900), is one of the favourites in town, replicating a long-held success in neighbouring India and – further away – Pakistan.

4. Toyota Prado DegeToyota PradoWuling Rongguang Dege 2Wuling Rongguang

The Toyota Prado and Land Cruiser are the most successful foreign 4WDs in town, which also displays a clear heritage of Wuling Rongguang minivans (not so many Wuling Sunshine): they must have ruled the Dégé sales charts before the arrival of the Hongguang.

VW Jetta Liebao Black King DegeVW Jetta taxi and Liebao Black Edition

The Dégé taxi fleet is almost entirely composed of previous generations VW Jetta, with the new model still struggling to make its mark here.

Great Wall Wingle 5 DegeGreat Wall Wingle 5Nissan D22 DegeNissan D22

Pickup-wise, we find the best-seller Great Wall Wingle 5 as the logical best-seller here, with the Nissan D22 and Dongfeng Rich also popular. This concludes our study of the cars of Dégé, our next (and last) stop will take us back towards Kangding in Tagong, then to the highest commercial airport in the world in Daocheng. Stay tuned!

Liebao Black King Wuling Hongguang DegeLiebao Black Edition, Wuling Hongguang/Rongguang and Leopaard CS10

The full Photo Report continues below with the complete 25 pictures.