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An industry too fast and too furious

The Fate of the Furious, the 8th installment of the popular Fast and Furious movie franchise, hit the Chinese theaters on April 14, two years after the release of Fast & Furious 7.

But for China’s auto industry, you don’t have to wait two years, or two days for that matter, for something big, newsworthy and surprising to happen. The industry is in a constant fast and furious state. Blink an eye, and you might miss blockbuster news and events full of twists and turns that often come in droves in the same day, if not the same hour.

I was on a recent trip to Germany and had my phone off for about 10 hours for the duration of the flight over to Frankfurt from Beijing, and once I landed, Tencent had bought a 5 percent stake in Tesla, Audi had reached a “truce” with its Chinese dealers after a lengthy “showdown,” Chang’an had launched its CS95 large SUV, JAC-Volkswagen had NOT officially received approval as some have reported and Beijing-Hyundai reportedly had to “stop” production at a plant due to anti-Korean sentiment over the deployment of the THAAD missile defense system.

That was at the end of March. If that was not crazy enough, let’s turn to April, as both Chinese and foreign automakers raced for the headlines weeks in advance of this year’s biggest industry trade show – Auto Shanghai 2017, which is going to have its own share of fastness and furiousness. JAC put its latest products on show at its own Auto Shanghai 2017 Brand Day on April 7, continuing a tradition that started two years ago. A day later, Ford held its own brand event in Shanghai with CEO Mark Fields announcing the launch of several new products, new investment and new services to the Chinese market. That followed an electrification strategy announcement on April 6 and plans to bring its F-150 Raptor and Ranger pickups to the Chinese market on April 7. These came about a week after crosstown rival GM announced its own connectivity strategy 2025 in China and new products and technologies including engines and transmissions for the local market. On the same day that Ford reiterated its goal to transform from a manufacturer to a mobility service provider at its brand event, BAIC Group announced the establishment of its own mobility unit – BAIC Mobility. On April 7, Chang’an announced its new “life rhythm” design philosophy and unveiled a controversial concept (think Lexus grille) at an event in Beijing, and signed a deal with “internet carmaker” NIO (NextEV) two days later to set up  joint venture. FAW and Dongfeng then announced executive appointments that basically “swapped” key executives again, yet another signal that the two State-owned giants could merge. 

And, who would have thought that commercial vehicle sales growth in the first quarter of this year would outpace industry growth by three-fold and passenger vehicle sales by five-fold?

Dizzy yet?

Fast and furious, ever changing and full of surprises. That is the nature of China’s auto industry.

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