(23 Apr 2010)
The Beijing auto show which has become a focal point for a scramble by automakers for a piece of China”s fast-growing market, opened on Friday to the media.
The show, in a country with almost no private cars 15 years ago, has risen to the top ranks of global auto industry events as China”s explosive sales growth drove this market past the United States in 2009 to become the world”s biggest.
The show opens to the general public on Tuesday.
Ford Motor Company was among many at the show and chose the Beijing Auto Show for the global debut of their new “Start” concept car.
They hope the idea catches on in this most important of markets.
Ford”s Vice President of Design and Chief Creative Officer J Mays introduced the new concept car and said he hoped that the idea of small spare outline and three cylinder engine becomes standard in the crowded Asian cities.
“China is a fantastically big market, and growing. You consider that there”s a 1.3 (b) billion people in China. We”re estimating a market of around 14 (m) million cars a year,” J Mays said.
Foreign automakers are pushing to expand sales in China while young but ambitious local brands such as Volvo buyer Geely want to raise their profile.
Sales elsewhere are so weak that China accounts for most or all the global profits for such major producers as General Motors Co., Volkswagen AG and Daimler.
China”s auto market shrugged off the global crisis and sales soared by an eye-popping 45 percent last year to 13.6 (m) million vehicles, well ahead of the 10.5 (m) million units sold in the United States.
Sales have been boosted by China”s economic rebound, which saw growth accelerate to 11.9 percent in the first quarter of this year.
Analysts expect more double-digit sales growth this year, though they say it should slow from 2009”s breakneck pace as Beijing winds down its stimulus and cools bank lending to head off an upsurge in inflation.
Foreign brands are more aggressive than ever this year in Beijing, where organisers say a total of 990 vehicles are to be displayed, from motorcycles to minivans to fire trucks to futuristic concept cars.
Chinese automakers also are promoting themselves more aggressively than ever.
China”s biggest domestic auto brand signalled its ambition on Friday to become a global player by signing Argentine football star Lionel Messi as an international ambassador to promote its brands.
Chery Automobile Co. made the announcement at the Beijing auto show, where it plans to show 29 vehicles including four alternative fuel models.
Messi is the reigning FIFA Player of the Year and stars for Spanish giants Barcelona.
Chery exports to 70 developing countries in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, and company spokesman said the company hopes to double exports this year to 100-thousand vehicles.
Yin Tongyao, Chairman of Chery Auto group said the automaker was aiming at global market and said Chery will be “the first local brand to achieve the two (m) million sales mark.”
They plan to unveil a total of 75 new sedans, SUVs, experimental “green” cars and other vehicles, according to the show”s organisers.
A key theme this year is clean transportation, including cars and buses driven by fuel cells, natural gas and other alternative sources.
Beijing sees alternative vehicles as the industry”s future and is pushing its products to develop the technology, though industry analysts say gasoline will dominate the Chinese market for the foreseeable future.
Geely Holding Group, a 13-year-old brand barely known abroad before it agreed in March to buy Sweden”s Volvo Cars from Ford Motor Co. for 1.8 (b) billion US dollars, is showing 55 of its own models, including 11 new vehicles.
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