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Auto Shanghai 2017 reveals the good and bad of Chinese heavy-duty trucks

Auto Shanghai 2017 was dominated by passenger vehicles as it usually does with many commercial vehicle manufacturers shunning the show.

But I did have an opportunity on the second to last day of the show to walk Hall 3H which was dedicated to commercial vehicles and had a handful of heavy-duty manufacturers displaying their latest trucks and buses: CNHTC, Foton-Daimler, JAC, SAIC-IVECO-Hongyan, Sichuan-Hyundai, Qingling and JMC.

Interestingly enough, almost all of these players are joint ventures or in the case of CNHTC, Qingling and JMC, have foreign partners (MAN, Isuzu and Ford, respectively) owning some shares directly or indirectly.

I did not have time to look at each of the heavy-duty truck models on display but the overall impression I had was, like their passenger vehicle counterparts, the heavy-duty truck models had great exterior design styling and had they not showed any brand badges, you might have mistaken them especially the cabins for popular European heavy-duty trucks. Many of them are also equipped with the latest powertrains from multinational suppliers and smart connectivity technologies and features. Qingling and JMC, in particular, debuted their latest generation of trucks.

That is also the conclusion of Yao Wei, our guest columnist and editor of find800.cn, who shares her thoughts in a two part series of the pros and cons of Chinese heavy-duty trucks from what were shown at the Shanghai Auto Show.

Her summary was that on the good side, the trucks on display in terms of styling and features are now on a par with their European counter parts and they are also becoming more “passenger vehicle” like in terms of the interior and comfort features.

But they also looked too much like European trucks because many of them benchmarked their cabins using European styling particularly from the Mercedes-Benz Actros, which reflects a lack of independent cabin original design capabilities. JMC’s Weilong might be an exception with its unique “Cross X” cabin design showing signs of original design and forward engineering.

The other two major “cons” were the lack of good craftsmanship and the use of all foreign powertrains (engines, transmissions and wheel ends) by all of the models on display. That reflects the Chinese heavy-duty trucks still lack build quality and too dependent on foreign powertrain technologies.

While that may not be representative of all players in the sector (FAW Jiefang and CAMC Hualing, who did not exhibit, are exceptions), it still shows the gap that Chinese trucks have with their European counterparts despite the huge improvement over the years.

Having said that, the Chinese heavy-duty truck market is still dominated by Chinese brands and they are enjoying the current “gushing” of the market thanks to a good regulatory environment. But in order to sustain this momentum, they better continue to do the good and take care of the “bad.”

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