A trip to Hangzhou seemed the ideal opportunity to do some research into Chinese automotive culture, particularly with regards to foreign marques. As it turns out the language barrier was the least of my problems.

China is the fourth biggest market for Bentley – a fact that seems odd in the world’s largest communist country. What was that about some of the animals being more equal than others? An interview was arranged with the Hangzhou showroom sales manager, to find out the secret behind Bentley’s rapid growth in the People’s Republic.

Things turned sour as soon as I walked through the door. The staff who had been all sweetness and light on the phone, turned into sour faced “computer says no” types as soon as they realised I wasn’t there to buy a car. The manager was apparently no longer available, the two cars on display were swiftly locked and my photographer almost assaulted for trying to take pictures.

It seems dealerships in China need to see the colour of your money before they will even be civil with you. Journalists seeking information are not viewed as potential sources of free PR, but nuisances to be treated with suspicion. Even parting with “I’ve been asked to leave classier places than this” lost its edge when relayed through a translator.