Chinese carmakers are doing the only thing they can do now that demand for automobiles in their own country has slowed -- they are looking to sell their wares overseas.
After years of astonishing growth, China's passion for automobiles has waned in the past 12 months, and while sales have still increased by around 2.5 percent, it's a far cry from the 30-odd percent growth experienced over each of the two years previous to that.
Faced now with a glut of cars on their hands -- and the added threat of the increased presence in the country of international brands -- China's motoring industry is tapping into more and more international markets as the months go by.
Some of China's leading brands -- among them Great Wall, Geely and Chery Automobile -- have already amped up their overseas presence in 2012, with Geely alone declaring it wants to see 70,000 of its cars bought by international drivers this year, compared to the 38,000 vehicles it sold overseas last year.
Overall there were 849,500 Chinese vehicles sold overseas last year, a rise of 50 percent from 2010, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.
While China's car makers have previously been targeting other Asian, African and Middle Eastern countries, the newest market for Chinese cars is Great Britain, which recently welcomed its first model -- Great Wall's Steed double-cab pick-up, built at the company's plant in Bulgaria and selling for £13,998 (17,422 euros).
International designers called in to help
And there has been a concerted effort to change the way the world looks at Chinese cars, too. Mostly known for cheap models such as Great Wall's Haval SUV and the Peri city car -- which can retail for as low as 40,000 yuan (5,000 euros) -- carmakers in China have been busy over the past year recruiting international designers to help lift the image of their models.
The Beijing Automotive Group recently hired Leonardo Fioravanti -- the man who came up with the Ferrari Daytona -- to help lift the design and the image of its cars while Chery has brought in the man behind the Mini, designer Gert Hildebrand, and Brilliance China Automotive Holdings has brought in Dimitri Vicedomini, another designer from Italy's legendary Pininfarina team.
Continuing safety concerns have also forced the Chinese auto industry to act in order to allay any fears consumers might have, a prime example being the investment the Changan Automobile group has made in opening research and development centers in the United States, Japan, Italy and Britain.