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Auto Designers Needed in China
China's auto industry must significantly improve its ability to conjure up new designs in the face of the looming pressure from foreign players, senior auto experts said.

Chinese automakers, including those new private enterprises, should join hands to foster bigger all-China design teams, urged Guo Konghui, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

Guo made the suggestion at a seminar in Shanghai on the development technology in China's manufacturing industry, which ended on Sunday.

The event drew senior executives of China's major automakers, including First Automotive Works (FAW) and Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp (SAIC), and experts from some foreign design companies such as the US-based Delphi Technology Inc.

"Our major disadvantage is the lack of extensive data and experience in auto design," Guo said.

Most Chinese automakers now rely on the inflow of foreign technologies after setting up joint ventures with foreign auto companies. Few specialized auto design companies operate in China.

"A dead end will await China's auto industry if we only pay attention to setting up auto joint ventures while all those core technologies are still in the hands of foreign companies," said Lei Yucheng, a professor at the Automotive Department of Tongji University in Shanghai.

In 1999, Lei initiated Shanghai TJ Innova Engineering and Technology Co Ltd, China's first high-tech start-up specializing in auto design.

Through co-operation with foreign design establishments and domestic auto companies as well as next year's stock market listing, the company wants to be one of the top 20 global design companies in the next five years.

"Though we can offer competitive services for both foreign and domestic auto companies, the public awareness is still low because the number of design companies like us in China is still rather small," Lei said.

(China Daily 05/30/2001)