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From Detroit News Auto Insider:

Designs for China come to Detroit

By Ed Garsten / The Detroit News

DETROIT - With its iridescent lilac paint job, fish-eye headlamps and scale-like door handles, the minisize minivan is designed to resemble a swimming fish, a fish aimed at spawning the development of vehicles designed specifically for China.

The concept vehicle, called the Kunpeng, will be on display next week at the North American International Auto Show as one of two full-size models that were finalists in an annual design competition sponsored by French tire giant Michelin.

The Kunpeng and the Jiexun, a station wagon-like vehicle, represent the first concept models designed specifically for China  the worlds fastest growing vehicle market  to be displayed at the show.

These vehicles are the first to be designed for an emerging market, said Thomas Chubb, vice president of marketing at Michelin North America. Now the needs are so varied in China, as different segments and different people can afford cars, you need a bigger variety of vehicles.

Indeed, by the end of this year, China is expected to record enough new vehicle sales to become the worlds third biggest vehicle market.

But most of the vehicles sold in China are either imported or reconfigured versions of vehicles sold elsewhere in the world and built or retrofitted in China.

The Kunpeng was designed by the Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center, a branch of the joint venture between General Motors Corp. and Shanghai Automotive Industries Group. The Shanghai, China-based company specializes in developing powertrain, heating and cooling systems, chassis, electrical systems and vehicle bodies.

The little minivan can actually seat seven, just like a full-sized minivan, said Chubb, but is structurally smaller to accommodate typical Chinese customers.

The Kunpengs broad windshield, rear window, and full-length glass sunroof are aimed at enhancing the vehicles resemblance to free-swimming fish.

"It signifies freedom and fun and happiness and thats sort of an influence you wouldnt see in other cultures," Chubb said. "It also signifies the further development of the Chinese auto design industry."


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