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Shanghai motor show kicks off

April 18, 2017

The future looks bright for China's car market. The world's second-largest economy wants to show off its power and cutting-edge technology, while forging new partnerships with the world's leading carmakers.

Shanghai Auto Show 2015
Image: Getty Images/AFP/W. Zhao

The 2017 Shanghai Autoshow opens its doors for a fortnight to more than 1,000 companies in the automobile industry, who will be exhibiting 1,500 vehicles as well as examples of cutting-edge technology to aid connectivity and enhancement of the driving experience.

"Shanghai is the market of the future, and the future has a lot to do with China," says Ferdinand Dudenhöffer from the University of Duisburg-Essen.

China is the world's largest passenger car market with 28 million vehicles sold last year and industry experts estimating a further 5-percent growth in the market in 2017 after a 12-percent increase for the previous 12 months.

Auto Shanghai Messe 2015
The Shanghai motor show is one of the highlights of the motoring calendarImage: picture-alliance/dpa/Volkswagen/F. Gentsch

Europe's car giants face China threat

Among China's upper class, it's Mercedes-Benz, Daimler and BMW which dominate the market. But China's domestic automobile manufacturers want a piece of the action and are threatening to upset the German monopoly.

"It is not easy for Chinese makers to break into this segment in the past," said An Conghu, president of Geely Group, which owns Sweden's Volvo Cars. "But now with Lynk & Co in place we want to really go into this segment and compete with foreign brands."

Geely's "03" model as part of its newly-announced Lynk & Co brand is one of the main attractions at the Shanghai motor show. The sporty coupe is expected to go head-to-head with Ford and Toyota in the market and the company hopes to sell cars in Europe and the United States soon.

Government-owned, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp (SAIC), wants to double sales of its domestic models this year, coming in at a lower price with comparable technology, beating competitors. It will market a Jaguar-like sport coupe at the Shanghai motorshow. "China's success is the base of overseas market success," said Zhang Liang, SAIC's product portfolio planning director.

International giants like Volkswagen and General Motors are forced to partner with a local corporation for their China operations. Having invested profits from the 50-50 agreements into hiring European expertise, the dominant China pair want to take on the established names in the industry.

New energy vehicles

Autonomous vehicles were hot on the agenda at the Beijing Auto Show in 2016 with Elon Musk's Tesla the star of the exhibition. But Musk's brainchild won't feature at the Shanghai conference, which is held every two years, despite the company doubling its sales in China year on year.

According to Dong Yang, the vice-president of the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM), driverless cars will be common in the country as early as 2030. The country aims to be market leader in autonomous cars alongside the United States.

With the help of aid from the government until 2020, China is also concurrently pushing ahead with eco-friendly vehicles.  For several years, China has struggled to address air pollution issues despite pressure from environmental groups.

In December, the capital Beijing was declared a "red alert" zone by officials, along with 21 other Chinese cities after a cloud of haze covered the city, forcing tens of thousands to leave.

rd/hg (dpa, Reuters)