By David Ferguson
This year's Beijing Auto Show, which ran for ten days from 18th to 28th April, has been a huge success. The show, which closed yesterday, was the biggest yet, and is now the top Auto Exhibition in the whole of Asia.
Auto China 2008 adds fuel to Chinese market
Big names and glamour were in the driving seat, as a new venue played host to over 2000 carmakers from 18 countries and regions.
The new China International Exhibition Center opened in March 2008, and the Beijing Auto Show was one of the first big events to take place there. The center is in the north east of the city close to the Beijing International Airport. It offers eight pavilions, and provides 180,000m2 of exhibition space.
The facility was designed by the Beijing Institute of Architecture & Design, working in close partnership with TVS, the international planning, architecture and interiors design firm. Built to a tight deadline in only three years, the centre will also be used in the upcoming Olympics. It is the largest mixed-use exhibition centre in China and the Auto Show 2008 will be a foretaste of things to come in Beijing.
The place is huge – from the drop-off point at the entrance to the car park to the top end of the centre is a walk of almost 30 minutes. Luckily, shuttle buses were provided to ease aching feet.
As major western markets experience a slowdown, car makers are increasingly turning their attention eastwards. Present at the Auto Show were all of the top ten car manufacturers in the world, showing a total of 88 new models.
"China is different from markets in the west," said one representative. "The unique feature it possesses is a much closer balance of income. And for us that means that when one person is ready to buy a car, or move upwards in the market, then tens of millions of others are ready to do the same."
Audi's new Q5 crossover vehicle made its debut, demonstrating clearly the importance that world car makers now place on the Beijing show and on the Chinese market. This is one of a growing list of five-passenger premium crossovers that are now entering China.
Porsche unveiled its new Cayenne Turbo-S sports/SUV crossover, on offer at the bargain price of $180,000. The model provides a host of new design, mechanical and optional features, and the exceptional price is no doubt justified by the quality.
Korean manufacturer Oullim had its new hand-built Spirra sports car on display for the first time, a steal at around US$100,000 – not much more than half the price of the Cayenne.
Volvo and BMW were particularly keen to make an impression. Both of these companies are using their involvement in golf as a channel to develop their markets in China, and both had big golf events sandwiching the Auto Show.