Until next Tuesday the Shanghai Autoshow takes place again, and of course I visited this year as well. I say of course, because I worked for 7 years in the automotive industry (for Daimler/Mercedes-Benz) and that is what brought me to China. I even used to write columns for Dutch car magazine Autovisie about the Chinese automotive industry (I stopped doing that about a year ago).
I was lucky to get trade visitors tickets to the show (thanks to BMW China), so I did not have to go during the extremely busy public days. I went with some people from Tudou, who had journalist passes. Tudou is an official media (I never realized that actually) and has its own teams at the Autoshow that produce original content for our car channel at http://auto.tudou.com/. If you want to see some footage of the show, that is a good place to go.
The exhibition has changed a lot over the years, from a small not-too-important auto show it is now among the most important in the world. It is huge: you need hours to just walk around the whole place to see all the models. Because I did not have that much time, I only went to the most important or interesting brands. For me those are mainly the Chinese brands: outside China people laugh about them (well, also still some people inside China do this) but they have come a long way and I think the next General Motors will come from China. The name of that company? Likely Chery, but also BYD and Geely stand a chance. One of these brands will first build out their business in China and then conquer the rest of the world.
Their quality may not be up too Western standards yet, but that will eventually come. Or maybe some people won’t care that much about extremely high standards when you can get a good car for maximum half the price of a Western model. Their designs are so much better than just 2-3 years ago, it amazes me how quickly these companies improve and innovate. Look at BYD for example, this company started in 2003 (yes, that’s less than 6 years ago – before that they made batteries) and is now already one of the top players in the electric vehicle segment. Their F6 model (a mid-size sedan) can be recharged up to 70% in just 10 minutes time!
Chinese car companies also like to copy designs, and Geely did once again an excellent job at that during this show. After copying Mercedes-Benz models for many years they now decided to go one step higher and copy a Rolls-Royce front. Decide for yourself if they did a good job. The car has one major innovation, however: the back seat consists of just one huge emperor-like seat! I don’t think that will sell well in Western markets, but I am sure many Chinese bosses outside the tier 1 cities would love to show off being driven around in this car.