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Lu Qun: Individualized consumption habits to drive smart manufacturing

The individualization of the automobile and consumption habits is going to force the entire manufacturing process to become smarter and more flexible, predicted Lu Qun, chairman of CH-Auto Technology Co., Ltd. and Qiantu Motor, a manufacturing subsidiary that is planning to build a super car at a new green field plant in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province.

“Cars will become more shared because they are more connected,” said Lu. “Rather than long-term ownership, cars will be shared for short periods of time and a few extreme performance metrics will be sought after, which will force the transformation of the entire manufacturing chain.”

Lu also believes that cars with many functions will give way to cars with only a few extreme functions that maximize satisfaction of one specific outing to provide the best user experience, and that will make the car cheaper because unnecessary features are eliminated.

“Mass scale personalized build to order. This is what we call flexible manufacturing, or Industry 4.0 or Made-in-China 2025,” said Lu. “This is manufacturing that is smart, flexible, digitalized and user participated.”

Lu said that materials such as light metal, composite material and even carbon fiber will have more business value on new energy vehicles and they will transform the four major manufacturing processes of stamping, welding, coating and general assembly. “Companies that are building new manufacturing facilities for NEVs should reconsider how manufacturing processes are done,” said Lu.

Qiantu Motor, according to Lu, has considered the contract manufacturing light asset business model, but has not found an existing manufacturer that is capable of producing a high quality new energy light-weight new material super car.

With regard to the overcapacity issue, Lu echoes Li Weili’s comments that it is a structural issue and that the industry lacks quality capacity but has too much of what he calls “garbage” capacity.

Lu maintained his prediction that China will sell 3.5 million NEVs in 2020 if low-speed EV sales were included, which together would account for about a tenth of 35 million vehicles to be sold that year. Last year, according to Lu, NEV sales approached one million units if the roughly 600,000 low-speed EVs sold were included. 

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