Posted by: Dexter Roberts on January 26, 2006
No, this car isn’t sinking, in fact it’s China’s newest invention, dubbed by its inventor the “water speed car” In what at first glance (last glance? every glance?) seems to be a bit of wacky news straight from popular Chinese website Sina.com. Former farmer, turned car mechanic, turned inventor Wang Hongjun has come up with a “water-land dual-use vehicle.” Wang’s motivation? A bit of good old Chinese nationalism, it appears.
Wang who worked most of his career repairing cars, had a moment of realization one day. Why are most of the cars on China’s streets Hondas, Nissans, Mazda’s and Volkswagens? Why doesn’t China have more of its own Chinese-branded cars (only a small minority are actually Chinese brand vehicles made by the likes of Chery and Geely.) As the article says (translated from Chinese by Xiang Ji):
“People praised his exceptional skills, but he felt down. He thought he cannot feel content no matter how well he repairs cars, because those cars are not made by Chinese people. One night, he was so upset that he couldn’t go to sleep. Why can’t Chinese people produce our own cars? Where have the people wasted their brainpower? And what are those auto experts and officials thinking about everyday? Walking their dogs?
“So he thought of a remark by Chairman Mao [just following the Communist takeover in 1949, when the possibility of sanctions by the U.S. was a real possibility.]: ‘Let the sanctions come! Sanction us for ten years and we will solve all our problems, [Mao said]. Chinese people fear not death. Why threaten us with difficulties?,’ [And Wang] decided to make a dream car by himself.
“After he finished the blueprint, he went off to an auto parts store. The sales lady introduced him to Honda, Toyota and VW auto parts with a great passion. Suddenly, he had a realization: ‘Why should I take the same path as Chinese auto companies? What else are they capable of except assembling cars with foreign parts?’”
So Wang took his meager life savings and bought a lathe, drill press, grinding machine, and set about making his completely Chinese, dual-use, water and land vehicle….
Okay, there is no doubt that patriotism at times can help to motivate people to do good things for their country. But this blogger for one wonders whether Wang is exerting his admirable energies in the right place. There is no doubt that China needs clever and creative (read, wacky) people working on finding new technologies for its auto industry—two obvious needs are for far more gas efficient and far cleaner vehicles, particularly as China’s energy needs soar and its cities become ever more polluted. And plenty of research on that is already being done. Some advice to Wang: keep up the original ideas, but stay on land. And maybe even consider working with a foreign vehicle manufacturer if that chance ever comes up…