Economy, Auto

A Glimpse Into World’s Largest Car Market

E-Jing GT electric sports car conceptE-Jing GT electric sports car concept

The Beijing International Automotive Exhibition is a barometer of the state of the world’s biggest passenger-vehicle market. New cars are launched and 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 automobile market after two decades of restrictions on how much foreigners can own in local car ventures; secondly, the electric vehicle juggernaut is beginning to gather steam; and then there is a looming trade war, Bloomberg reported.

 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 Beijing auto show on 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 Lakearea in China’s northwestern Xinjiang province.

Months after calling off a planned partnership with Tata Motors Ltd., Volkswagen AG signaled it has not 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 in the South Asian country.

 Joining Hands

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.

Just as China’s trade relations with the US 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 in North America.

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 on Wednesday in Beijing.

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 ($18 billion), Jochem Heizmann, head of Volkswagen’s business in China, said Tuesday at a new-model presentation in Beijing.

 A Slice of the Cake

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.

Chinese billionaire Li Shufu has catapulted from founding his Geely Group as a refrigerator maker in the 1980s to owning Volvo Cars, British sports carmaker Lotus, London Black Cabs and the largest stake in Daimler AG—the inventor of the automobile. Now he is spearheading China’s aspirations to wedge itself among the big three of the global car industry—the U.S., Germany and Japan—so they become the Big Four.

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