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China factor in Hannover

The 66th IAA Commercial Vehicles, the world’s largest commercial vehicle show, concluded today after a seven-day run.

While traditional European truck and bus makers as well as suppliers dominated the headlines, China was again a significant factor.

In fact, German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), which organizes the biennial event, said that China was the best represented foreign country at the show with 229 exhibitors, accounting for 11 percent of the 2013 total exhibitors and about one-sixth of all foreign exhibitors.

Four of those exhibitors – Foton-Daimler, BYD, Zhejiang CRRC and Gree Yinlong – were truck and bus OEMs and all appeared at the show for the first time ever.

Foton-Daimler’s Auman EST Super Truck, a truck that was four years in the making since the opening of the joint venture in 2012, had its global debut as part of Daimler’s Trucks and Buses for the World exhibition section. The JV also held its own media night to officially launch its new Super Truck Series covering both heavy-duty and medium trucks. Senior executives confirmed in an interview with CBU/CAR that the next generation of the EST is already under development and will debut in 2019.

BYD, already with a big presence in Europe, debuted its first all-electric tourist coach – the C9 dedicated to the European market and will announce in three weeks the site of its first European production plant. The company now has a presence in 56 cities in Europe, according to senior executives.

Zhejiang CRRC Electric Vehicle Co., Ltd., a subsidiary of CRRC – the world’s largest rail transport equipment supplier, showcased an18m articulated pure electric city bus – one of two units that will start trial operation in Graz, Austria in October, signaling its official entry into Europe.

Gree Yinlong, the hottest names in China’s bus industry, exhibited indirectly as a strategic supplier of lithium titanate batteries for Dutch bus maker EBUSCO.

It is interesting to note the significant attention that Foton and Daimler as well as their strategic suppliers have given to the EST Super Truck. After all, Foton-Daimler is probably one of the more successful heavy-duty truck JVs and Daimler is equally bullish on its own imported high-end truck market in China. The heavy-duty truck market has rebounded significantly this year and Daimler expects that trend to continue over the next few years as demand for high-end trucks increase and owners focus more on lifecycle cost. But it will be years until we actually see a Chinese truck brand compete in Europe due to stringent emissions regulations.

On the bus side, the story is different as bus makers have swarmed into Europe either through the export of whole vehicles or supply of key components such as batteries, led by the success of BYD. Frankly speaking, the success of Chinese bus makers in Europe owes partly to the fact that major European bus makers do not really have significant electric bus offerings on the market. Daimler, for example, won’t launch an electric bus until 2018.

The exhibitors may have changed, but the presence of Chinese OEMs remains strong and will likely increase when the show returns to Hannover in two years.

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