Volkswagen AG, Ford Motor Co and Chinese brands yesterday unveiled new sports utility vehicles (SUVs) for China’s growing market at the Shanghai Auto Show, the industry’s biggest marketing event in a year overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Automakers are looking to China, the biggest auto market by sales volume and the first major economy to rebound from the pandemic, to propel a sales revival and reverse multibillion-dollar losses.
Auto Shanghai takes place under anti-virus controls that included holding some news conferences by video link. Few executives from abroad are attending. Reporters were required to undergo virus tests.
The latest models reflect accelerating momentum toward electrification and designing models for Chinese tastes. Automakers rely increasingly on research and design centers in China to create models for global sale.
Volkswagen said its all-electric ID.6, available in six and seven-seat models, aims to create a “lounge on wheels” with semi-automated driving and other technology.
The show also highlights the fast-growing technology and design skills of China’s young, but ambitious domestic brands.
Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd (吉利汽車), part of the Geely Holding Group (吉利控股集團) of brands that includes Sweden’s Volvo Cars Corp, debuted a new flagship SUV, the Xingyue L.
The company has said self-driving technology enables the Xingyue L to park itself and return from a parking lot to pick up its driver.
General Motors Co (GM) debuted the Envision Plus midsize SUV and the Verano sedan, among 13 new and refreshed GM models planned this year in China, while SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile Co Ltd (上海通用五菱) released the electric Macaron, part of its lower-priced Hong Guang line, early this month.
Ford unveiled a midsize SUV, the Evos, the first vehicle developed largely by a China-based team under a two-year-old strategy to use Ford’s Chinese operations more in product development.
The automaker also debuted a plug-in hybrid SUV, the Escape, and an all-electric Mustang Mach-E.
China’s first-quarter sales of SUVs, sedans and minivans jumped 75.6 percent over a year earlier, the China Association of Auto Manufacturers said.
By contrast, Edmunds.com Inc has forecast that quarterly US sales would rise 8.9 percent over a year earlier, but would be off 8.6 percent from the final quarter of last year.
Sales of electric vehicles in China, which accounts for about half of global purchases of the technology, nearly tripled in the first three months of this year over a year earlier to 515,000 units, the association said.
Separately, BMW AG’s China joint venture with Great Wall Motor Co (長城汽車) is set to start production in 2023, as the German automaker aims to have electric vehicles make up one-quarter of its sales in the country.
The construction of a manufacturing plant with Great Wall is “well under way” and the main structure should be completed later this year, BMW’s China chief executive officer Jochen Goller said in an interview at the Shanghai Auto Show.
Production of two Mini EVs for the China and global markets would start in 2023, he said.
Despite the intensifying competition, Goller said he remains optimistic about the long-term outlook for China’s auto market.
The German automaker is off to a strong start, with 229,000 BMWs and Minis delivered in China in the first quarter, Goller said.
That is after sales rose 8 percent last year.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg
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