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By Samuel Shen and Norihiko Shirouzu SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) - Global automakers are scrambling to meet the demands of China's young urban professionals, who want a car that makes them stand out, yet don't always have the money to splurge on a top-end model. After nearly two decades of frenzied growth driven mainly by the very wealthy, China's auto market is maturing, yet remains ferociously competitive with manufacturers having to react quickly to shifting consumer trends. People like Zhou Wenxi, a 32-year-old Shanghai cram-school owner, and Guo Yetao, 23, a software salesman from Hangzhou, are fuelling two trends: hot demand for smaller crossover sport utility vehicles like Ford Motor Co's EcoSport; There is a potential "seismic shift" in the influence these young urban professionals will have on China's auto market, says Yale Zhang, head of Automotive Foresight, a Shanghai-based consultant.
By Edward Taylor and Jan Schwartz BEIJING (Reuters) - Strong demand for new automobiles in China has laid the foundations for the next leg of business for carmakers BMW , Audi and Mercedes-Benz: the second-hand premium car market. China's auto market is the world's biggest and is set to grow between 8 percent and 10 percent this year, fuelled by increasingly affluent buyers, who use them for the daily commute, with some opting for luxury brands as a status symbol. We have 290 dealers who offer certified pre-owned Audis," Rupert Stadler, chief executive of Volkswagen's premium brand, Audi, said during the Auto China show in Beijing. "In China, we have some dealers that sell between 1,500 and 3,000 cars." Audi, which expects China to contribute 40 percent of its sales by 2020, plans to train 40,000 to 50,000 new sales staff a year by 2017 to meet growing demand for brand-new and used cars, he said.
By David Dolan SOWETO, South Africa (Reuters) - In this corner of South Africa's black township of Soweto, the biggest building used to be the Catholic church. Now it's been overshadowed by a shopping center and business has only gotten worse for Grace, a 68-year-old shopowner. Like many proprietors of "spaza" shops - the informal stores that dot township corners - Grace barely manages to keep afloat as more of her neighbors head to the mall. Grace has been running the shop with her husband since 1993, the year before South Africa's first all-race elections.
LOS ANGELES, Calif. - In the decade that "Touched by an Angel" executive producer Martha Williamson has been away from series TV, much has changed. But Williamson says her Hallmark Channel series, "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," will be just as comfortable a fit for viewers as "Angel" was during its 1994-2003 run. "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," debuting 8 p.m. EDT Sunday, stars Eric Mabius ("Ugly Betty") as Oliver, the straight-laced, good-natured supervisor of an offbeat group of U.S. Postal Service employees who become sleuths to get mail to its proper place. Valerie Harper is a visiting manager in the first two episodes, with Carol Burnett, Valerie Bertinelli, Marilu Henner and former "Angel" star Della Reese also set to guest star.
Scientists have discovered four new species of carnivorous sponge off the Pacific Coast, including one deadly variety found hanging from the deep-sea ridges off southern Vancouver Island. "Sponges characteristically feed on small particles, like bacteria, little tiny guys," said Henry Reiswig, a retired professor of biology at McGill University, volunteer taxonomist at the University of Victoria and the Royal British Columbia Museum, and self-described "sponge guy." "It's a snaring process involving spicules, pieces of glass on their surfaces that they use to snare," said Reiswig, who is "77 or something like that." Two of the newly discovered species were collected by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute off the California coast and another from a hydrothermal vent field in the Gulf of California off Mexico.
Daimler said its DENZA electric car will be eligible for local subsidies in China when it goes on sale there in September priced at 369,000 renminbi ($60,000). DENZA, a local Chinese brand jointly developed with Chinese partner BYD , forms part of the German auto maker's push to expand its footprint in the world's largest car market, and to boost economies of scale for electric cars. Speaking at Auto China, the car show held in Beijing on Sunday, Thomas Weber, Daimler's head of research and development, said: "DENZA is the first complete vehicle that Daimler has developed together with BYD outside of Germany." The 5-seater car will be produced by Shenzen BYD Daimler New Technology Co. Ltd, and will have an operating range of 300 km (190 miles), Daimler said.
KATMANDU, Nepal - Nepal's authorities temporarily halted climbing on Mount Everest while search teams dug through snow and ice Sunday for three Sherpa guides missing in the deadliest avalanche on the world's highest peak that killed 13 others. A section of the route over the dreaded Khumbu Icefall, a climbing pass where the avalanche swept a group of guides early Friday, has totally collapsed and a new trail has to be dug, ropes fixed and aluminum ladders laid over the crevasses before climbing can resume, said Ang Tshering of the Nepal Mountaineering Association. Another group of Sherpas, who had already passed before the avalanche struck, were stranded on the other side and would only be able to get back to base camp once the new route is fixed, Tshering said.
By Yoko Kubota BEIJING (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp plans to make and sell hybrid versions of its Corolla and Levin sedans in China next year, fitting them with locally-made components, in its first bid to entirely manufacture gas-electric hybrids outside Japan. The backdrop to Toyota's plans are efforts by foreign and domestic automakers to kick-start sales of hybrid cars in China, as the world's largest auto market warms to the vehicles in its efforts to cut pollution and reliance on fossil fuels. Toyota, an industry leader in hybrid vehicles, already makes the Prius and Camry hybrids in China, but has to import key parts, such as hybrid systems, making it tough to generate volume due to high import tariffs. In 2015, the Corolla and Levin hybrid sedans will carry made-in-China batteries, hybrid transaxles and inverters, Executive Vice President Yasumori Ihara, said at the Auto China car show in Beijing on Sunday.
The streets of Surrey, B.C., were lined with tens of thousands of people for the city's Vaisakhi Parade Saturday, and amid the the day's food booths and other festivities, one group was trying to reach the South Asian community with a serious message.
Jenkintown Mayor Ed Foley, in a gut-busting campaign to draw attention to the tiny borough's varied restaurant scene, set out to visit all 24 of them on Saturday, starting with a pre-dawn visit to IHOP. The second-term Democrat said he's had to battle "mom guilt" from restaurant staff as he has eaten his way across Jenkintown, a town so small that he only needed to build in 15 minutes to walk from place to place. He said several restaurants have opened in Jenkintown in recent years â€” and more are poised to join them in the coming months â€” but he was surprised to count them and see 24 restaurants now populate a town of less than a single square mile. About 20 years ago, he said, Jenkintown had only one place to eat.
China is set to surpass the United States to become Volvo Car Group's biggest market in 2014 with sales of at least 80,000 cars in the world's largest auto market. Its car sales target for 2014 is around a third higher than the 61,146 cars sold in 2013, while sales in the United States in 2014 are expected to increase only in line with the broader market, it said in a statement on Sunday. In the first quarter of this year, it sold 17,286 cars in China, up 25.4 percent from a year earlier. Volvo, whose XC60 SUV is its best-selling model in China, expects the Chinese market to help boost its global sales in coming years, though it faces competition from foreign firms, such as General Motors Co , and domestic players such as SAIC Motor Corp .