Grille bling blinds onlookers at 2012 Beijing International Auto Show

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Beijing opera performers.

Even they believed the Beijing auto show chrome overload to be ostentatious. (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/smartneddy/Wikipedia)

The 2012 Beijing International Auto Show is all dressed up in chrome, reports the Wall Street Journal. Chinese automotive enthusiasts like chrome grilles, “the more garish and Gothic the better,” notes WSJ. The vehicles that will be on display until May 2 have grille “bling” in spades.

Putting on the fancy face

David Goggins, an FAW-Volkswagen executive, noted that there’s some major peacocking going on in Beijing.

“It’s all about face,” he said. “It’s about how you show off.”

Goggins’ sentiment was echoed by SAIC global design director Anthony Williams-Kenny.

“It’s purely about status,” said Williams-Kenny. “It’s about telling people ‘I’m important, I’m successful, I’m at the top rung.’ ”

The intimidation factor

Experts believe that the chrome grille showmanship becoming increasingly common on the roads of China is a show of mighty plumage. Traffic safety and law enforcement are reportedly not at the same standard to which U.S. drivers have become accustomed, so looking more important or intimidating in a flashy new vehicle provides an edge.

Goggins pointed out that the kind of chrome excess seen at the Beijing auto show harkens back to the U.S. auto industry’s past, as well. China’s current economic status reminds experts of America’s 1950s emergence into wealth after a prolonged period of scarcity.

“Suddenly, people can buy stuff,” said Goggins. “And no one is quite sure how long all that is going to last, so it’s a kind of feeding frenzy.”

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A grille too far

A perfect example of grille excess has to be the Geely Excellence Emgrand, a vehicle the company describes as “the perfect interpretation of Chinese classical aesthetics.” The Wall Street Journal is somewhat less kind, calling the Emgrand’s grille “somewhere between an evaporative cooler and an enormous Norelco shaver, with huge semi-circles of vertical chrome pushing through sheet-metal.”

It’s almost too gaudy to be believed, yet Western luxury carmakers like Cadillac, Audi, Buick and Bentley are following suit with their offerings in China. Concept vehicles like the Cadillac Ciel and the Bentley EXP9 boast “brilliant, gloriously graphic faces,” writes WSJ.

Lamborghini Urus at the 2012 Beijing International Auto Show


Beijing International Auto Show

CBS News

Wall Street Journal

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