First and only car made more than 50 years ago
More than half a century since its production stopped after making a single vehicle, the marque of the first car ever made in China will again be on the road when Dongfeng Motor Corp revives its namesake.
Sources at Dongfeng, based in Central China's Hubei province, told local media that a new model with the working name Dongfeng-1 is under development, with the first concept model expected to make a world premier at the 2013 Shanghai auto show.
Three variants with engine displacements ranging from 1.8-liter to 2.4-liter are planned on the PSA platform, which also makes the Citroen C5 and Peugeot 508.
Dongfeng declined to provide further details, but sources familiar with the plan said a clear strategy is expected to be released in 2015.
In 1953, First Auto Works - the first auto company in New China - was founded in Changchun, capital of Northeast China's Jilin province.
Five years later, FAW's first China-made car, the Dongfeng, rolled into the Zhongnanhai compound, the headquarters of the Chinese government.
After sitting in the car as it took two laps around the compound, Chairman Mao Zedong remarked that "finally I sat in our own car".
But the production on the car ceased only a month after its debut.
Just three months later in 1958 the first Hongqi - or Red Flag - came off the production line at the same FAW plant. It would become the first mass-produced car in the country.
That same year, Shanghai Auto Works, the predecessor of SAIC Motor Corp, built its first sedan carrying the nameplate Phoenix. The car's name was changed to Shanghai in 1964.
In the 1960s, Second Automobile Works began production in Hubei province. In 1975, the State Council gave the go-ahead for vehicles made at SAW to use the Dongfeng brand name, which has been used since on commercial vehicles.
The plan to revive the nametag on cars is the latest effort by Dongfeng to boost its wholly owned car businesses, especially in the high-end segment.
Dongfeng sold more than 3 million vehicles in 2011. Its own-brand vehicles contributed 1.12 million units, one-third of its full lineup.
The company announced earlier that it will invest 10 billion yuan in improving its own brands between 2011 and 2015.
According to Dongfeng's latest plan released at the end of 2011, the group aims to reach the 3-million-unit benchmark in sales of its wholly owned brand vehicles by 2016. Its own-brand cars are expected to account for 1 million units, with the rest commercial vehicles.
The Chinese government has been calling on officials to use more domestic cars instead of foreign marques made at joint ventures.
Currently China's government procurement is dominated by foreign brands. Analysts said that Audi alone now accounts for about 80 percent of government car purchases in Beijing.
A policy released in the middle of last year requires that general official cars should have engine displacement no more than 1.8 liters and be priced less than 180,000 yuan. The move is expected to benefit more domestic brands, as most of their products are smaller and cheaper than joint venture-made cars.
Former standards set the engine displacement limit at 2.0 liters, with a price ceiling of 250,000 yuan.
Government cars used by minister-level officials and above should have engine displacement no more than 3.0 liters and be priced less than 450,000 yuan.
The revived Dongfeng-1, Hongqi and Shanghai all plan models with displacements ranging from 1.8 to 3.0 liters, which can suit the full range of official car requirements.