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Explore China 2019: The cars of Kunming, Yunnan

Haval H6 Coupe near Kunming

After Shanghai and Manzhouli in Inner Mongolia, we continue our exploration of China following the Shanghai Auto Show and now fly all the way down north near the border with Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam to the Yunnan province. We start with the province’s capital, Kunming.

Kunming location in China

At 3.27 million inhabitants, Kunming (just) qualifies as a Tier 2 city. See an excellent Tier city classification map and explanation here. This dictates the tastes of local consumers who give more room to premium brands such as BMW with an impressive presence of BMW 5 and 7 Series in town.

Wuling and Jinbei examples in Kunming.

However the first and most striking observation when arriving in Kunming is the prevalence of Wuling minivans and MPVs everywhere. The most popular vehicle here seems to be the Hongguang V, classified as a commercial minivan in China, with the Hongguang and Hongguang S3 also very frequent. I also spotted many more Jinbei minivans and MPVs than usual. The reason behind this landscape: the touristic nature of the town, in stark contrast with our previous stop in Manzhouli.

VW Lavida, Skoda Superb and Lynk & Co 03 in Kunming

Volkswagen is very strong in Kunming, with the Passat, Magotan and the first T-Roc spotted in this trip. The Tier 2 level of the city also means local SUVs are weaker here than in lower-Tiered cities, and foreign sedans are much stronger, such as the Lavida (first new generations spotted here), Toyota Corolla and Nissan Sylphy, but also the Skoda Superb. I also spotted my first Lynk & Co 03, the first Jetour X70 of the trip and first BAIC EC-Series, 2018’s best-selling New Energy vehicle in China, whereas I surprisingly saw none in Shanghai.

Great Wall Wingle 7, JAC T6

As soon as we get out of town in highway rest areas, pickup trucks regain control with a few examples of the brand-new Great Wall Wingle 7 and JAC T6 spotted. The recently launched Cadillac XT4 was also surprisingly strong on the highway west of Kunming, as pictured below.

Cadillac XT4, Haval F7 and F7x in Kunming

I have to admit though I spent most of my time in Kunming in the car dealership district, in order to test drive a few models which I will report on shortly. It was a fascinating experience, with many dealerships crammed in a relatively small area. Haval had one of the largest store where the F7X was already available (I visited in late April).

Exeed dealership and Exeed TX

I spotted my first ever Exeed dealership when I followed the TX example pictured above…

Traum, Borgward and Bisu dealerships in Kunming

…a lot of rather impressive dealerships for secondary Chinese brands such as Traum, Borgward, Domy (selling only Dorcen models) and Bisu – although the latter seemed abandoned…

Lynk & Co “parking spot dealership” in Kunming

…and finally a concept new to me: for more recent brands or brands that didn’t secure enough space in the dealership district: a parking spot, a banner with the brand name and a couple of mobile numbers are enough to form a multitude of what I will baptise the “parking spot dealership”.

Stay tuned for the next stop in our Explore China 2019 series: Dali.

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