Auto Shanghai shows China has moved from industry copycat to concept and electric pioneer
Auto Shanghai is now one of the premier motor shows, alongside Detroit, Frankfurt, Paris, and Tokyo. With a greatly expanding presence of foreign brands in Chinese markets, its significance has grown at a similar rate. As the last major stop on the motor show circuit before the season starts up again in September, it is also where we have grown to expect some of the biggest, most consumer-focused reveals of the year.
It is also arguably the best showcase of where automotive is headed. China has fifteen mega-cities, and Shanghai is its largest, with a population of over 35 million people. That means a consumer-driven focus on small, ergonomic, economic vehicles that embrace electric and hybrid technologies, as well as SUVs and more luxurious offerings for the elite society members who can afford the taxes. Be under no illusion that climate-change and social consciousness aren’t on the agenda even here though.
It’s also a forum where many brands can re-evaluate their success and audience impact. Whilst working hard to make their image more premium back home in the U.S market, Buick for instance, are already perceived as a luxury brand in China. In fact, they sold 1.2 million vehicles there last year compared to the 230,000 registered in the states. And that figure also represents the majority of Buick’s worldwide sales.
This blend of current technology and thinking with premium brands is echoed in Audi CEO Rupert Stadler’s prediction, made at this year’s Auto Shanghai, that the demand for prestigious brands will see a rise in the sector over the next decade to around three million cars. Something he is no doubt looking forward to, with Audi the current top-selling premium brand in China.
Here are seven cars that have defined this year’s show.
Audi E-TRON Sportback
Unlike most concepts that will never see actual deployment, production has already been confirmed for 2019 when it comes to this coupe-style, fully electric SUV. As the favoured car of Tony Stark in the Iron Man and Avengers movies, perhaps it’s no wonder Audi have revealed their plans for electric car world domination, super-villain style, at Auto Shanghai. Perhaps we should call it the age of E-TRON.
Chery Tiggo Concept
Chery are a Chinese market stalwart, and are a driving force in pushing the boundaries of their home sector. The Tiggo is a Mercedes GLA-style compact, high-riding SUV coupe. As a technology and design showcase, it’s focus is on the advanced autonomous driving mode, including a steering wheel that doubles up as a gaming controller. So, perhaps you’ll be able to take part in high-speed road battles and races whilst stuck in traffic.
Lynk & Co.
User-first is the platform of today. Digital-first is the platform of tomorrow, at least according to China’s Lynk & Co. Rather fittingly, their first car is called the 01, and is offered with a lifetime warranty and free onboard connectivity. But it goes beyond just convenience. All Lynk & Co vehicles depend on a shared signal between passengers, users, and drivers. Shared ownership, and even renting your car out when you’re not using it is encouraged, and even paid for via a simple app. Don’t expect to see it in a showroom any time soon though, as you’ll be ordering everything from your test drive, to your own bespoke 01 or 03 online.
Mercedes-Benz Concept A Sedan
Following the recent Aesthetics A sculpture, the Concept A Sedan isn’t just a potential competitor to the similar Audi A3, or even arguably the BMW 2-Series, it’s also a solid indication of what the next generation of Mercedes road cars will look like. The Mercedes compact models have proven especially popular over the last few years, with more than two million A-Class, B-Class, CLA, and GLA variants sold, again putting emphasis on the important ‘small but premium’ market. Saloons are particularly popular in China, so the Shanghai reveal is both deliberate and strategic.
Another all-electric concept car from a Chinese owned manufacturer, is the MG E-Motion. Compared to the current MG 3 and GS, the stunning supercar design shows just how fast China can catch up with more contemporary, western manufacturers, and how quickly their methodology can adapt in a single generation of vehicles. Promising 0-60 mph in less than four seconds, a range of more than 300 miles, the latest pure-electric modular architecture platform, and an intelligent infotainment system, it brings MG’s sporty aspiration to the low-emission market.
Qoros K-EV Concept
Qoros is a Chinese-Israeli owned, ‘near-premium’ manufacturer, distinguished by their European technology and distinct styling language, which should be no surprise with former MINI Chief Designer Gert Hildebrand in charge of design. The fully electric vehicle was developed in partnership with Koenigsegg, hence K-EV. With the Tesla Model-S firmly in its sights, its four electric motors give it 850hp to play with. From its asymmetrical door concept (a gullwing on the left, sliding panel on the right), to transparent panels and vertical light styling language, it is a bold statement of intent.
Volkswagen I.D. CROZZ
The I.D. CROZZ is a fully electric, fully-autonomous ‘crossover utility’ vehicle, and is based on a scalable electric car platform called MEB, which will be shared across the VW AG with Audi, SEAT, and Skoda. The concept, basically a skateboard with an incorporated powertrain, allows almost any body-covering to be applied to it. In this case, the now familiar coupe-style SUV clearly in favour at Shanghai.
With today being the last day of the show, it’s so-long Shanghai for another year.