The global auto industry converged in the capital city in late April for the biggest party of the year: Auto China 2016, or the Beijing Auto Show.
The 14th version of the biennial show, also known as the Beijing International Automobile Industry Exhibition, featured more than 1,600 companies from 14 countries exhibiting on 220,000 square meters of display space. A total of 1,179 vehicles were shown including 112 global debuts, 46 concept vehicles and 147 new energy vehicles.
But besides the sheer size of the display area, the record number of vehicles shown and people attending, visitors might be impressed by two major highlights of the show: a host of SUVs from existing players and several smart EVs and super car concepts from new ones that made their first appearance.
According to CBU/CAR’s tabulation of nearly 100 new domestically-made models that made their debut or launched at the show, half are SUVs big and small. And of these new SUVs, half are Chinese brands. SUVs were seen at virtually every single display booth of established automakers that were exhibiting.
The SUV segment has showed no signs of slowing down, according to the latest data released by China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) on April 12. In the first quarter of this year, sales of SUVs rose 51.46 percent to nearly 2 million units, accounting for 35 percent of the passenger vehicle market and 30 percent of the overall auto market including trucks and buses. In sharp contrast, passenger car sales continued to contract, falling 9.27 percent to 2.82 million units. That means one SUV is now sold for less than every 1.5 cars sold. The same ratio was roughly 3:1 just two years ago.
No wonder that carmakers swarmed the show with SUVs, which highlights the growing tension between foreign and local brands. In fact, according to IHS Automotive, Chinese brands have now overtaken foreign brands in the SUV segment, and control 58 percent of that market. IHS Automotive forecasts that an additional 50 new SUVs will begin production in China this year, and about 78 percent are Chinese brands. It forecasts that sales of SUVs will rise to 7.7 million units this year, compared with just 1.6 million units in 2010.
The other major highlight of the show are smart vehicles and super EVs from a host of new players such as LeEco (formerly known as LeTV) with its LeSEE super car concept, Event Motor from Chinese design house CH-Auto with the K50 concept and Cowin Auto, a “spinoff” from Chery Auto that has come up with a concept vehicle through a “crowd sourced” design model. SAIC Motor unveiled the Roewe internet SUV, what it calls the world’s first mass-produced super internet SUV. Chang’an’s driverless Raeton made its 2,000 km trek from Chongqing to the show, while BAIC Motor unveiled both a super car itself and an autonomous vehicle based on the E150 for visitors to experience.