There's plenty of alarmism in the media and think-tank crowd – OK, at least in the conservative portion of it – about the military buildup of the ol' People's Repub in the past few years. Such stories are almost universally accompanied by some headline declaring our "Next World War" to be imminent. Before you run off to buy War Bonds and collect scrap metal to fight the new yellow horde, let me introduce you to the Jiangling Landwind.
Caption: "Landwind is honored to be your final resting place."
Like most Chinese-engineered products, the Landwind is simply a copy of the kind of things Japanese, European, and American companies were making 10 years ago – but with the cheapest, flimsiest, and most cut-rate components substituted in. So the Landwind isn't so much a Chinese SUV as it is a Chinese copy of the mid-1990s Isuzu Rodeo/Nissan Pathfinder. Yeah, I'd say the resemblance is more than striking.
So take outdated architecture from the West, combine it with the legendary Chinese ability to make complete shit, and what do you get? The first car in history that is more likely than not to kill its occupants.
China's making a lot of noise about becoming the "new Japan"….an industrial exporting powerhouse. There are companies in both Europe and the US that are planning to start importing Chinese cars to compete with cheap Korean and Japanese models. Before receiving permission to sell the vehicles in Europe, Jiangling was required to pass the standard crash-safety tests administered by the German government.
Let's just say the Landwind failed. In fact, it got the first "zero stars" rating (five-stars is tops) in the history of any industrialized nation's crash-test programs. It's safe to say that this thing could kill you if you look at it too long. Here's a glimpse inside the cabin after a 40 mph frontal impact alongside another vehicle for comparison:
"Die Landwind est un Shittenwagen."
Volkswagen Touareg after the same test
The German authorities determined (probably based on the fact that the steering wheel is in the dummy's skull) that the occupants of the Landwind "could not have survived" the 40 mph impact. 40 mph. Can you imagine a 75 mph highway wreck? I'd rather take my chances eating lead paint and sharing needles with Magic Johnson (what….too soon?)
I could post more still photos, but you really have to see the videos to get an appropriately chilling sense of what a piece of shit this thing is. It comes apart like it is made of Ramen noodles. Note on the exterior shot of the crash test that the drivers' side front wheel ends up in the well of the passenger cabin. On the interior shots note that the fucking drivers' door breaks off the frame. Say what you will about airbags, antilock brakes, and other doodads, but I think we can all agree that the doors staying on the vehicle is our first line of defense in an accident.
In a fitting and hilarious postscript to the story, the Chinese government defended its product by noting that the Landwind has passed the "National Chinese Safety Tests," which we can assume consist mostly of shouting at the vehicle to see if it will remain vigilant against capitalist expansion or retreat into a cocoon of shame.
I love the non-Western world's attitude toward safety. It's almost like the Chinese government sat down and said "Safety? We've got 1.4 billion people. Each fatal car accident is a welcome blessing." Let's go ahead and assume that this approach to manufacturing is not limited to their auto industry. Based on this evidence, I'm fairly confident that a couple of well-placed shots from a BB gun could disable a Chinese tank.