Electric vehicles become the main battlefield of Shanghai Auto Show


At the Shanghai auto show on Tuesday, China was the way of the future for foreign brands racing to catch up with Chinese rivals in the all-important electric vehicle market. In China, the world’s largest car market, where electric vehicles account for a quarter of car sales, dozens of new models from domestic and Western brands have been unveiled at the country’s first auto show since Covid restrictions were lifted.

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Updated on:
April 19, 2023 at 09:10 am

The Volkswagen ID.7 electric sedan made its debut at an event on the eve of the Shanghai Auto Show in China.  (Reuters)
The Volkswagen ID.7 electric sedan made its debut at an event on the eve of the Shanghai Auto Show in China. (Reuters)

Domestic brands account for 81% of China’s EV market, according to analysts at Counterpoint Research, and European industry giants are also at pains to emphasize the importance of doing business in China.

“China is a place worth visiting,” BMW executive Frank Weber said at a news conference. “Munich is our hometown, and China is our home.”

Nearly 70 percent of the latest operating system involves features for the Chinese market, BMW said, and the company has tripled its research and development in China over the past three years.

“What moves a customer in China today will move the world tomorrow,” another BMW executive, Oliver Zipse, told the audience as he showed off the i Vision Dee, a color-changing electric sports sedan.

German automaker Volkswagen has announced it will invest 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) in a new electric vehicle development center in southern China as part of its “in China, for China” strategy.

An earlier press release said its brand will showcase 20 electric models at the show, with the VW ID.7 and the new Cayenne Porsche making their world debuts.

“With its high level of innovation, China is an important pacesetter for the entire auto industry,” the release said.

“A strong position in China enhances our global competitiveness.”

Mercedes-Benz has announced that it has fully electrified two classic models, the off-road G-Class and the Maybach SUV.

Elon Musk’s Tesla, the world’s largest seller of electric cars, was not in attendance, and a representative did not say why it was absent when contacted by AFP.

Domestic champions look west

Across from BMW in the showroom, China’s BYD unveiled a slew of new electric models, including a supercar from its high-end Yangwang brand.

BYD is fast catching up to Tesla’s lead and intends to grow further in Europe and North America.

Chinese media reported that the company had set a sales target of 3 million units in 2023.

BYD’s vice president said the company plans to export 300,000 electric vehicles this year, compared with 50,000 the year before, CCTV reported.

It has established itself in the European market, starting with Norway and then expanding to other European countries.

Other Chinese brands are also looking to expand westward.

Zeekr, the premium electric brand owned by Geely, confirmed on Tuesday that it will enter the European market.

“Europe is a very important region for us,” its European chief Spiros Fotinos told AFP. “It’s a mature and complex market as we prepare for global expansion … it also gives us a head start as we move into other regions.”

It was the first time since 2019 that most international executives came to Shanghai, one of the most important shows for the industry.

“It’s great to be back here,” Fortinos said.

“You saw the enthusiasm, the excitement, the sheer number of people coming here today. Obviously people have missed the opportunity.”

First published date: April 19, 2023 at 09:10 AM CST


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