Cartechnical editor Andrew Noakes with Chen Ke Ren, Audi's biggest dealer in China (centre), Homson Shaw (right) who acted as interpreter, and Audi A8L.

Hangzhou, 100 miles south west of Shanghai, may be home to Chinese car maker Geely but as the capital of the rich Zhejiang province its roads have more than their fair share of premium German saloons. Of the 228,000 Audis sold in China last year, for instance, 35,000 went to Zhejiang. The biggest of Audi's 160 Chinese dealers is Hangzhou-based Zhejiang Aotung, which sold 6000 cars in 2010.

They say here that if you don't know Zhejiang Aotung founder Chen Ke Ren, you simply aren't in the motor industry. According to him the Chinese car market - which is still growing, unlike most others around the world - has significantly changed over recent years. "Chinese consumers used to care more about looks. Now they care more about safety and technical functions," he says through an interpreter. "In the past the car market in China was dominated by Japanese cars, but increasingly German cars are coming to dominate."

Audi builds mass-market cars in China to avoid swingeing import taxes. Most popular is the Q5, for which there is a three-month waiting list. Mr Chen is looking forward arrival of the Q3: "We will have them in the second quarter of next year," he says. "I anticipate it will have an even better market than Q5."

Long-wheelbase saloons have long been Chinese favourites, and both A4L and A6L models are assembled in China. But the imported A8L, launched in China in February, might be one of the last of the breed. "In future families will have second and third cars, and the size of A8 will be the same as in Europe. Also parking is increasingly difficult - you have to consider the parking problem."


Mr Chen's own parking problem - the perennial lack of car space faced by almost every car dealer - has been solved by an automated parking system (above). Developed by a Hangzhou company, the system stacks Audis five cars high in a space-saving steel gantry, and can deliver a car back to ground level in seconds. The system will park any Audi except the R8 (Mr Chen has sold a dozen V10 R8s, despite a price in excess of 2.5million RMB -about £250,000). It's one of a series of innovations aimed at improving efficiency and serving the customer better, he says: "Everything that we provide, or we think of providing in the future, is for the satisfaction of our customers."

Thanks to Homson Shaw of Zhejiang University of Media and Communications for interpreting.