The onging12th Guangzhou auto show started on Nov 21. [Photo/Xinhua]
Record range of models on display and global premieres
The ongoing annual Guangzhou auto show shows its power in the south with record-high 1,095 models on display and 56 world premieres.
Despite license plate restrictions in the city, most industry insiders agree Guangzhou remains the weather vane for the auto market in the Pearl River Delta and even southern China as a whole.
That is likely the reason for a bigger presence by volume brands and premium plaques alike at the show, which is expected to attract 600,000 visitors.
Household names Volkswagen, General Motors, Ford and Hyundai are all showing their latest products in addition to the usual high-profile presence by Honda and Toyota, which have Guangzhou as their base of operations in China.
Premium brands including Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo and Infiniti as well as super-luxury brands Bentley, Ferrari, Rolls Royce, Maserati and McLaren also showcase their sleek models to attract increasingly affluent Chinese customers.
SUVs remain among the most popular, with choices ranging from the BMW X6 to Great Wall’s Haval H9.
Jaguar Land Rover is displaying its first China-made model, the Range Rover Evoque, that even as an import was already one of the British automaker’s most popular models in the country.
Another sign of its success is the X7 by Chinese automaker Land Wind on display－it looks almost exactly the same as the Evoque. Media reports say JLR may consider legal action against Land Wind, a joint venture between Changan Automobile and Jiangling Motors Co.
In addition to traditional gasoline-powered models, the auto show has a separate hall dedicated to new-energy vehicles, a first for China’s large auto shows.
Though the sector faces technical and infrastructure challenges, statistics show sales of new-energy vehicles reached 38,163 units in the first three quarters of 2014, almost three times the number in the same period last year.
More than 20 automakers including Tesla are presenting their latest new-energy products.
Star models included BMW’s plugin hybrid i8. Sporting a 1.5-liter turbocharged engine and an e-motor, it has a maximum output of 170 kW and uses just 2.1 liters of fuel per 100 km. It can still sprint from zero to 100 km/hour in 4.4 seconds.
Volvo has brought its plug-in hybrid S60L to Guangzhou. The model can cover up to 50 km on pure electric power and can be charged on household sockets. In hybrid mode, it uses 2 liters of fuel per 100 km. The model is expected to hit the market in 2015.
Volkswagen is presenting its electric-up! powered by a 60 kW e-motor with 210 Nm in torque. Fully charged, it can run up to 157 km and has a top speed of 130 km/h.
Chinese automakers has also brought their new-energy products. Shenzhen-based BYD is showcasing a hybrid MPV. The seven-seat BYD Shang can cover 60 km as a pure electric and uses 2.24 liters of fuel per 100 km in hybrid mode.
In addition to vehicles, some visitors to auto shows are keenly interested in female models and performers, but girls working at the Guangzhou show are wearing more clothes than at similar events in the past.
Organizers such as the China Machine Industry Association urged exhibitors not to include “sensational, uncivilized and vulgar acts” in their promotional events, and the call has been heeded. Most car models at the show are dressed more discreetly, some in traditional Chinese garb.
Performances were also more refined, including an Irish riverdance at the Skoda booth.
The advice from organizers was also intended to prevent a repetition of the mess at the Beijing auto show earlier this year when visitors rushing to get a glimpse of celebrities caused chaos that resulted in temporary closure of several halls and consequent postponement of press conferences.
A Beijing-based auto reporter said changes at the Guangzhou auto show are a positive sign. He said automakers should be focused on vehicles themselves now that China has been the world’s largest market for years.
“I like the Geneva auto show because that is a show of technological progress. I hope someday auto shows in China can be like that,” he said.