Today I went to the Shanghai Auto Exhibition during lunch. As a former DaimlerChrysler employee (and currently also freelance reporter for Dutch car magazine Autovisie) I still am a big fan of cars, so each time there is a car exhibition I try go there. The problem with car exhibitions in general, and the Chinese ones in particular, is that it is always extremely busy. But because today the event was only open to the press I could walk around relatively quietly and take a lot of pictures (thanks to DaimlerChrysler for giving me a press day entrance card). The event seemed even bigger than the last ones I have been to, and today’s newspaper confirmed that. The 2005 edition had 1036 car & parts manufacturers, this edition has 1300 exhibitors, and the space increased from 120,000 sqm to 140,000 sqm.
The most interesting thing during this show was to see the quality increase in Chinese vehicles. Of course there were still a lot of low-end cheap Chinese cars, but several manufacturers are moving up very quickly. Especially Brilliance and Chery are doing a good job, with some excellent designs. Others are also making nice cars, but a lot of their vehicles seem to be copies of foreign models. Especially Mercedes-Benz seems to design cars that people like to copy, see also some of the pictures from the Auto Show that I posted here. Another thing that has changed is that there are more and more foreign models standing next to the cars. This used to be only good-looking Chinese women, but now many brands (especially Chinese) flew in foreigners to perform this job.
I had lunch in the Mercedes-Benz VIP area, where I met several former colleagues. That’s always one of the things I enjoy most at these shows, meeting old friends and catching up on how things are going in the company. Being an entrepreneur is great, but being part of a multinational also used to be nice. Especially when you work longer for the company and get a bit higher in the organization people all know each other, it’s a bit like a circle of friends. Most of my friends who are still there have now moved on to senior management positions and several of them are now actually CFO of DaimlerChrysler companies. I also met Wang Ning again after a couple of years, he is now in charge of the commercial vehicle division in China. He just started this job last month, but knowing him a little bit from years ago I think he is the right person for this job. Good to see that DC is more and more localizing its senior management positions, that’s in my opinion necessary to win in China. Also at the Volkswagen exhibition area I met some former colleagues, among others Li Bing (who changed his name to Kevin Li), and who is now a director for Volkswagen China. Many ex-colleagues have moved from DaimlerChrysler to other automotive brands, but not many of them have moved to other fields of business. It’s a small world in automotive China.
Too bad I could not stay very long, because there was still a lot of work waiting in the office (due to the upcoming Tibet trip). Due to all the traffic jams – the negative side of all the new cars in China – it took me almost 1.5 hour to get back to the office. Luckily I had decided to take a taxi and not to drive myself, so I could work a bit in the back seat of the car.