Green, aspirational and optimistic - trends from Chinese automakers at Auto Shanghai
Wednesday 20 April 2011
Although international automakers at this week's Auto Shanghai show had one very transparent aim - capturing the Chinese market - the same couldn't be said for China's automakers, which offered several more thought-provoking ideas for the future.
The proliferation of green vehicles from brands such as Geely, Great Wall and BYD proved that electric motoring isn't just for the west, and Chinese automakers intend to be at the front of the charge of going green.
The technology might not be 100 percent there yet, but healthy subsidies from major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai have encouraged many automakers to try their luck in the hope that a successful model could push them into the global lead on electric vehicles.
This week saw the launch of the Shuaike electric vehicle from Dongfeng, with the accompanying promise that it would sell 100,000 of the vehicles by 2015, while China's number six automaker Guangzhou Automobile said it planned to sell 200,000 "new energy vehicles" by 2015.
Geely, which drew a lot of attention with its McCar concept (complete with an electric scooter at the back) also promised it would start production of electric and hybrid vehicles by the end of next year.
Despite this sentiment, thanks to China's rapid urbanization and soaring wealth the country's automakers were also able to display more aspirational models than ever before - the number of SUVs on display gave the show a feel that was reminiscent of pre-recession Detroit.
Among the big launches were the Jinbei S30, the Brilliance BS4 Crossover and the ambitious Haval IF concept from Great Wall.
Of course, it would be easy to dismiss the Chinese automakers displaying their products on their home turf as visionaries catering to their own market - if it weren't for the constant reminders that they are soon likely to be international automakers.
More than ever, Chinese brands are talking about international expansion - Great Wall is set to open a new dealership in the UK this summer and believes it can be in the US by 2015.
Shanghai-based automaker SAIC is developing a dealer network in the UK to sell MG models, according to reports, while BYD is still heralding its US operations, despite several delays for the first electric vehicles it planned for the country.
So while western automakers fight to bring their products to the world's largest auto markets, it seems the Chinese brands are biding their time, developing their niche markets, and waiting for the day when their products will take the spotlight at a western auto show.
Auto Shanghai runs April 21-28 in Shanghai, China.
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