2012 Beijing Auto Show

Over the next few days representatives of much of the world’s motoring press will be arriving in Beijing. Flown in and feted often at the expense of international brands like Volkswagen, the show which alternates yearly with Shanghai has become one of the most important shows on their annual calendar.

With China since 2009 consistently ranking as the world’s number one car market this is little surprise. However, it wasn’t always the case. Early Beijing shows were hampered by lack of space that was only solved when the 2008 show moved the venue to the China International Exhibition Center.

And it was perhaps 2008 when the attitude of the overseas media and even manufacturers began changing. For a long time China was seen as a dumping ground for old technology where cars that were already out of production in developed markets could be sold for what seemed like eternity. Even when the latest designs were offered they usually came with older engines and gearboxes than those offered in other markets, along with generally lower specification levels. Whilst it could be argued that this still goes on, it is to nowhere near the extent that happened before.

The faltering of the Western economies and the relentless increase in car sales in China are no doubt the reason behind the change in attitude. This was reflected by major manufacturers choosing Beijing or Shanghai for the global launch of new models.

Beijing’s 2008 show saw the global unveilings of the Audi Q5 and the production version of the Mercedes-Benz GLK. However it was perhaps the 2009 launch of the Porsche Panamera that really marked the coming of age for the Chinese shows. It was the first time that Porsche had ever launched a car outside a European or American show.

One of the most eagerly awaited debuts of the 2012 Beijing Auto Show will be the Lamborghini SUV concept. With China both a big luxury and SUV market reaction will be critical. More down to earth launches will include the Fiat Viaggio, which whilst initially designed for China may make it to other markets, along with the Korean built Renault Talisman.

What however will be very evident amongst the Chinese manufacturers is the push to produce larger cars aimed at the coveted government procurement list, which with new rules now favours domestic manufactures. The just launched Roewe 950, heavily based on the Buick LaCrosse, seems to be a clever way for GM to somehow benefit from the new rules. BAIC will finally be launching its Saab based offerings which are also ideal for this market. Hongqi will also be throwing its hat into the ring with the introduction of the H7 which may finally help restore some of the brand’s past glory. With Chinese manufactures increasingly losing out to joint ventures the offerings displayed at this year’s show are crucial to change the situation.

The 2012 show promises to be the biggest and best yet. It will prove that China is still the most important market and one to increasingly watch as a producing nation.

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