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Auto China 2008: A long step short of an international A-class event

Auto China 2008, or the 10th Beijing International Motor Show, attracted a record number of 680,000 visitors during the eight-day event from April 20 to 28 at the New China International Exhibition Center in Shunyi District, suburban Beijing.


The biennial event featured 892 vehicles, which included seven global premieres, 24 Asian debuts and 55 concepts, 2,100 exhibitors and 180,000 square meters of display space. As many as 8,000 reporters from China and around the world came to report the event.


All of these are no doubt record numbers even in comparison with world class auto shows in Detroit, Frankfurt, Paris, Tokyo and Geneva. The new show ground is twice as big as the crowded CIEC in downtown Beijing, and with a much better layout.


But despite the overwhelming hype of the auto show over TV, radio and web portals and in subways and buses, the gap between Auto China and world-class trade events was obvious in many respects.


Traffic was a headache, especially in the first two press days of Auto China exacerbated by the otherwise precious spring shower that hit Beijing. As the first phase construction of the new venue had only been recently finished, there is still no direct public transportation link to the new site from downtown. From the three available routes to the new site, almost all roads, including the new six-lane highways leading to the show ground, became virtually a parking lot. Cars and buses were struggling to find parking space near the site. Even though the new venue is less than two kilometers from the Capital International Airport, it was reported that many people missed their planes.


Despite the spacious exhibition halls, lavatories were few and small, unable to accommodate hundreds of thousands of visitors. Restaurants and rest areas were also not adequate to deal with the teeming crowds. Even the office space for show organizers was tiny and crowded.


The deafening noise in the eight main exhibition halls made the show sound like a giant discotheque. All exhibitors, especially the local Chinese ones, were locked in a one-upmanship as far as decibels were concerned, as if otherwise visitors would find it hard to notice them. You could hardly have a conversation without raising your voice to a near shout standing in one of the myriad stands.


While show organization and management were better in many respects compared to two years ago, there still remains a lot of room for improvement to make the biennial event more professional. Unfortunately many of the problems with the recent event were the result of the decision by show organizers, as well as participating exhibitors, to rush into the barely completed new showground before the end of April. Due to ongoing preparations for the Beijing Summer Olympic Games in August, the Beijing municipal government decided to cancel any large trade, entertainment or sports event after May 1.


There is still a long way to go before Auto China can be recognized as a world-class international trade event in terms of professional and visitor services. But there is little doubt that Auto China stands to become the largest auto show not only in Asia but also in the world, thanks to China¡¯s booming automobile market.


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