Unlikely Badge Engineering: Hongqi
Audi? Lincoln? Maybe, but the badge raises a Red Flag.
Like many developing auto industries, China automakers have been somewhat reliant on designs borrowed (legitimately or not) from established manufacturers. Most of these adapted designs fall into two categories: straightforward license-built products, such as those from Buick and Volkswagen, and designs cribbed from other manufacturers, such as the Chery QQ3, freely adapted from the Daewoo Matiz. However, there are a few Chinese manufacturers whose derivative products are a little more creative and thus fall outside of these two categories. FAW’s Hongqi luxury car division, for example, has provided a few examples of creative badge-engineering over the years.
Hongqi, which translates to “Red Flag,” is actually the oldest car manufacturer in China, hence FAW’s name (First Auto Works). Their first, and, for many years, only, products were limousines for transporting government officials and other animals more equal than others. These were relatively straightforward copies of Chrysler’s Imperial, though with different bodywork, and thus aren’t of particular interest here. But, in the 1990s, things began to get interesting at Hongqi, thanks to two separate deals, one with Chrysler, the other with Volkswagen.
FAW’s deal with Chrysler was initially to build the Dodge 600 under license, but that did not come to pass. However, the deal did secure FAW with the rights to build Chrysler’s 2.2-liter engine. The deal with Volkswagen was more productive; FAW and Volkswagen set up a partnership to build various Volkswagen and Audi products, a partnership which continues to this day. FAW decided to combine the fruit of these partnerships, and the result was the Hongqi CA7200. The CA7200 was essentially a C3 Audi 100 with a Chrysler 2.2 engine and Hongqi badges.
And Hongqi didn’t stop with the CA7200 either, but got a lot of mileage out of rebadged and re-engined Audis. Variants included limousines, pickup trucks (!), and even four-door stretched convertibles to transport dignitaries in parades. To make matters more confusing, Hongqi later ditched the Chrysler 2.2 in favor of a Nissan 2.0-liter V6.
Slightly less confusing but equally interesting were variants of the Lincoln Town Car. These were built from CKD kits supplied by Ford, and then modified accordingly by Hongqi. All of these Chinese Town Cars were given new trim and badges, and two different extended-wheelbase versions were produced.
Both Audi- and Lincoln-based Hongqis have since been dropped (precisely when seems to be a bit unclear), and now Hongqi offers only two products. First is the L5, a V12-powered limousine which is both China’s most expensive automobile and the country’s official state car. The other is the H7; this is produced in conjunction with Toyota, and is a rebadged version of the Chinese-market Crown.