FEATURE22 November 2017

Cultural drivers

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Asia Pacific Automotive Features Impact

A culture of inclusive values is emerging in China, and with that the meaning of the car has begun to change. John Murphy of Simpson Carpenter explains how car manufacturers are reacting to the shift in gears.


The dominant cultural values in China, which previously revered social climbing and the trappings of money and success, are beginning to make way for emerging values that celebrate human and natural experiences.

Car manufacturers are responding by evolving the narrative of the car from a symbol of social class and exclusivity to a human-centric life force – a vehicle of inclusivity, of reconnection with others and the world around us.  

Social climbing and exclusivity

For the past 10 years, the trend or sequence of vignettes in car ads has been like this: a shiny black car drives through a city street, an urban modern jungle; blacked out windows, a cocooning space from the outside world, a world devoid of imperfection and people.

It was a trend that spoke to the aspirations of the Chinese middle classes, who had experienced decades of hardship, but who – by the mid-2000s – had started to live out ‘glory’ lives, ...