The following is from a story in the current issue of Autoweek regarding the MINI being launched in China. It's an interesting glimpse into a culture, a car, and what happens when they're introduced to eachother.

This is China 2003, and
BMW's Mini Cooper has just gone on sale. It's certainly a challenge; with a billion potential customers, how do you make a profit selling less than 300 cars a year in a country where the import duty means it's going to cost the equivalent of $50,000? What's more, the original car never went there; the brand has almost zero recognition and people know nothing of designer Sir Alec Issigonis (the father of the original Mini) or the 1969 film The Italian Job (which featured Italian-Chinese international intrigue, as well as the original Mini).

But China is the Holy Grail, the world's last great unconquered market, for carmakers. Of the population, only 1 percent can afford a motorized vehicle of any sort, and only 1 percent of that number can muster enough cash to buy a Mini. But the boom has started; sales were up 30 percent last year, and several firms are building factories locally to avoid the crippling import taxes. Chinese newspapers are hailing this year as the end of ?the bicycle age.?

The Mini is not the obvious choice – the wildly varying climate and the state of the roads means a sport/utility vehicle would be more suitable – yet the Chinese are fascinated by it. The car has sparked unprecedented coverage in the media and has been featured on most of the 2000 TV stations.(Autoweek)

And the phenomena grows…