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Mobil­i­ty with Atti­tude — Tes­la, sedans and wannabe lux­u­ry cars at the Bei­jing Auto Show

E‑Jing GT elec­tric sports car con­cept. Pho­to: Sup­plied
The Bei­jing Inter­na­tion­al Auto­mo­tive Exhi­bi­tion is a barom­e­ter of the state of the world’s biggest pas­sen­ger-vehi­cle mar­ket. New cars are launched, star­tups vie for atten­tion against their multi­na­tion­al rivals.

This year’s show is sig­nif­i­cant for some key rea­sons: Chi­na is begin­ning to open up its auto mar­ket after two decades of restric­tions on how much for­eign­ers can own in local car ven­tures; elec­tric vehi­cles are begin­ning to gain steam; and there’s the loom­ing threat of a trade war.

Tak­ing flight
Porsche may have built its race-car rep­u­ta­tion on two-seaters like the 911, but it’s been SUVs like the Cayenne that have made Chi­na the top mar­ket for the Ger­man lux­u­ry car mak­er. Now sales of the small­er cars are start­ing to take off too. While there’s no room for the chauf­feur, “demand for our two-door sports cars, the 718 Cay­man and Boxster, is devel­op­ing extreme­ly well,” accord­ing to head of sales Detlev von Plat­en.
The cream of the crop
From ultra-lux­u­ry to sleek and speedy, it was all there. A pletho­ra of elec­tric SUVs, some star­tling­ly strik­ing grills and a par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ing paint job are among the exhibits. The race to an all-elec­tric future is more evi­dent than ever, as star­tups take on their multi­na­tion­al rivals in a bid to attract eye­balls.
BMW Con­cept iX3 elec­tric car. Pho­to: Sup­plied

The Red Flag is now green
Chi­na FAW Group Corp., the car­mak­er that devel­oped the Hongqi, or Red Flag, lim­ou­sine for Chair­man Mao Zedong six decades ago, unveiled the E‑Jing GT elec­tric sports car con­cept at the show Wednes­day. The sleek, two-door mod­el was pre­sent­ed in a turquoise-green hue the car­mak­er calls Kanas Green – a name appar­ent­ly inspired by the Kanas Lake area in Chi­na’s north­west­ern Xin­jiang province.

VW-Tata Take II
Months after call­ing off a planned part­ner­ship with Tata Motors Ltd., Volk­swa­gen AG sig­naled it has­n’t shut the door on a tie-up with the Indi­an automak­er as it works on a strat­e­gy to bring bud­get cars to mil­lions of cost-con­scious buy­ers. Volk­swa­gen, which has been long con­sid­er­ing mak­ing afford­able mod­els for India, will decide on its game plan in the first half of this year, said Bern­hard Maier, chief exec­u­tive offi­cer of Sko­da Auto AS, part of the VW group.

BMW to build elec­tric SUV in Chi­na
Just as Chi­na’s trade rela­tions with the U.S. are at their worst in years, BMW AG is lay­ing the ground­work to start export­ing from its biggest mar­ket to buy­ers around the world includ­ing North Amer­i­ca.
Qiantu K50 con­cept elec­tric car. Pho­to: Sup­plied
The car­mak­er plans to begin pro­duc­ing its first all-elec­tric sport util­i­ty vehi­cle, dubbed the iX3, in 2020 at its joint ven­ture in Chi­na and will sell the mod­el abroad, accord­ing to part­ner Bril­liance Chi­na Auto­mo­tive Hold­ings Ltd. The con­cept was unveiled Wednes­day in Bei­jing.

Even with no Musk, Tes­la draws a crowd
No media con­fer­ence, no prod­uct launch­es, no appear­ance by Elon Musk yet Tes­la Inc. attract­ed much of the atten­tion as Chi­na’s biggest car show kicked off.
The car­mak­er is par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Bei­jing auto show for the first time and sure­ly a crowd gath­ered around a blue Mod­el X, red Mod­el 3 and white Mod­el S. Tes­la does­n’t man­u­fac­ture in Chi­na, yet. The car­mak­er is wide­ly seen as a ben­e­fi­cia­ry of the rule changes com­ing on joint ven­ture part­ner­ships.
Vision Mer­cedes-May­bach Ulti­mate Lux­u­ry car. Pho­to: Sup­plied

No one can do it alone
While auto­mo­biles cur­rent­ly have a lot of dri­ver assis­tance built in, they don’t offer ful­ly autonomous-dri­ve fea­tures, Jaguar Land Rover Chief Exec­u­tive Offi­cer Ralf Speth says. Gov­ern­ments, researchers and the indus­try need to col­lab­o­rate across sec­tors to devel­op a safe tech­nol­o­gy. The com­pa­ny, which is team­ing up with Way­mo to devel­op autonomous vehi­cles, is test­ing the tech­nol­o­gy pre­dom­i­nant­ly in the U.K. and sharp­en­ing efforts to make the roads safer with such cars.

A tried-and-test­ed approach
To con­quer the world’s largest elec­tric-vehi­cle mar­ket, Japan’s car giants are start­ing by play­ing it safe. Instead of bet­ting on new mod­els to lure Chi­nese cus­tomers, Nis­san Motor Co., Toy­ota Motor Corp. and Hon­da Motor Co. are slap­ping elec­tric motors on cars that are already doing well as gaso­line ver­sions. These include Nis­san’s Syl­phy sedan, and a plug-in ver­sion of Toy­ota’s long-time hit Corol­la.

A Chi­nese elec­tric sports car wants to vroom
The founder of Chi­nese start­up Qiantu Motor is jostling for a slice of the world’s biggest elec­tric-vehi­cle mar­ket, and says the race for lead­er­ship in the indus­try has bare­ly start­ed. The com­pa­ny is set to kick off sales of its 700,000 yuan ($156,581) K50 sports car in July. The bat­tery-pow­ered mod­el accel­er­ates from zero to 100 kilo­me­tres in 4.6 sec­onds and can reach a max­i­mum speed of 200 kilo­me­tres per hour. It has a range of 365 kilo­me­tres on a sin­gle charge.

Sedans are dead, you thought? Think again
Who­ev­er pro­claimed the death of the sedan for­got to tell Chi­nese Lexus buy­ers.
Toy­ota’s pre­mi­um brand is launch­ing the sev­enth gen­er­a­tion of its mid-sized ES saloon into a mar­ket where sales of the mod­el have almost dou­bled over the past two years.

Mer­cedes tests appetite for May­bach crossover
May­bach was the first off the blocks, extend­ing the ultra-lux­u­ry badge with a crossover, com­pete with a porce­lain tea ser­vice embed­ded in a heat­able ebony-wood tray.
Aimed square­ly at any bil­lion­aires perus­ing the Bei­jing show’s offer­ings this week, the con­cept mod­el includes option­al white nap­pa-leather lie-flat seats with mas­sage and aro­ma-ther­a­py func­tions. Mer­cedes isn’t com­ment­ing on when it’ll decide on offer­ing the vehi­cle.

Volk­swa­gen’s $23.76 bil­lion tech­nol­o­gy push
VW is shift­ing into over­drive, bol­stered by spend­ing at its Chi­nese joint ven­tures as the Ger­man car­mak­er seeks an edge in pro­duc­ing elec­tric, self-dri­ving autos. The part­ner­ships’ tech­nol­o­gy invest­ments in the next five years will total 15 bil­lion euros (A$23.76 bil­lion), Jochem Heiz­mann, head of Volk­swa­gen’s busi­ness in Chi­na, said Tues­day at a new-mod­el pre­sen­ta­tion in Bei­jing.

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