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Carmakers keen to make impression at Auto Shanghai

China Daily| Updated: April 18, 2023

Event gives global brands opportunity to witness success of Chinese models

Global carmakers, big and small, are flocking to Auto Shanghai 2023, which is the first brick-and-mortar A-class auto show in the world this year.

Running from April 18 to 27, the biennial Shanghai auto show has attracted 1,000 overseas and Chinese companies.

They are here to showcase their wares for the age of smart electrification and, perhaps more importantly, their bosses can finally have a look for themselves at what the Chinese auto market has become.

For the past three years, since the outbreak of COVID-19, they gleaned information about the world's largest vehicle market mainly through corporate reports from their employees in China.

BMW Group said it is showcasing its largest ever lineup of electrified models, bearing marques from the namesake BMW to Rolls-Royce.

The i7 M70 L, BMW's electric flagship model, is making its global launch. Rolls-Royce's first electric model, the Spectre, is meeting customers for the first time in Asia.

The car group said its electric vehicle sales in China totaled almost 20,000 units for the first quarter, more than tripling the figure in the same period of 2022.

Mercedes-Benz AG has brought its stellar lineup to Shanghai, including the Mercedes-Maybach EQS SUV, which is the first electric production model from the marque.

Other highlights include the first electric G-Class concept, the EQG, and the China-made EQE SUV, which is the first locally produced electric SUV based on its dedicated EVA platform.

Ola Kaellenius, chairman of the board of management of Mercedes-Benz Group AG, is one of the first global automotive executives to arrive in China, already meeting with senior industry officials on Wednesday.

Jin Zhuanglong, minister of industry and information technology, told Kaellenius that China's fast-evolving market is generating unprecedented opportunities for both Chinese and global carmakers.

The country is opening up its sector of high-end manufacturing and global companies are welcome to increase their investment, said Jin.

This visit to China is the second for Kaellenius in three years since the COVID-19 outbreak but also the second for him in a month. He attended the China Development Forum in late March in Beijing.

Oliver Blume, chairman of the board of management of Volkswagen AG, is heading a delegation of over 100 members to the Shanghai auto show, including those from its marques from Porsche to Audi.

A Volkswagen employee told China Daily that it is great that they can come and have a look for themselves. "They just didn't understand why the electric models sell well in Europe but not here in China," said the employee.

Blume is presumably curious as well. He was the first global auto executive to visit China this year, when he arrived in February.

He said his top concern was "the people"; to motivate its employees and listen to its customers; and to "get a feeling of how the country has changed and what the expectations of Chinese customers are".

Dirk Hilgenberg, CEO of Cariad, which is Volkswagen's software arm, arrived in Beijing on Tuesday to ink a joint venture with ThunderSoft, a well-known intelligent operating system products and technologies provider.

The new partnership is designed to accelerate the development of Volkswagen's connectivity and infotainment systems in China.

"A seamless, integrated and personalized user experience is becoming a key differentiator for software-defined vehicles," said Hilgenberg.

"Through the strategic partnership with ThunderSoft, CARIAD is committed to providing scalable, innovative solutions for infotainment and connectivity in China at a faster speed," he said.

Global executives are correct when they decided not to limit their activities to the auto show itself but look for novelties in the wider market.

Last week, China's BYD unveiled its Yunnian vehicle control system, which it claimed is the first example globally dedicated to NEVs. A video from BYD shows that a sedan featuring the system does not lose its stability even when it has only three tires left.

Lian Yubo, executive vice-president of BYD, said the Yunnian-P, one of the Yunnian products, will first be used in its luxury Yangwang U8 off-roader, which is also showcased at the Shanghai auto show.

Geekr, the electric premium brand of Geely, unveiled its latest crossover last week, vowing to take aim at the German trio of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Among other features, a swipe on the display will move the screen from the center to the front of the first-row passenger.

Nio, one of China's most popular EV startups, is showcasing six models on its second-generation platform, including the new ES6 which has been wooing car buyers away from global premium brands.

Nio founder and CEO Li Bin said he is confident that Nio can beat sales of Lexus' gasoline and electric models combined in China this year.

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