Chinese car makers buzzing in Shanghai

Nile International Channel, April 21, 2011

At the Auto Shanghai motor show, local Chinese car makers are taking the opportunity to show off their latest models which are now competing with the western and Japanese auto giants.

However, it is in the niche sector of electric vehicles where Beijing sees its best chance to dominate the future market.

Auto industry watchers have been out in force at this year's Auto Shanghai show eager to catch a glimpse of the latest Chinese-made cars.

And the future of the Chinese car industry could be this exotic concept vehicle from local Chang'an Motors.

Chinese car makers in recent years have launched ambitious plans to mass produce cars while competing internationally with established western and Japanese brands.

As the trend for luxurious and spacious cars, much like Geely's Engrand, still dominates the Chinese market, a shift towards greener engines has been a highlight of the show.

Beijing sees electric vehicles (EVs) as a field where it can take a global lead, helping to transform China into a creator of technology.

On the Chang'an Motors stand EVs take centre stage.

Here sporty concept cars, complete with a demo electric charging station, show the country's ambitions to dominate the electric vehicle sector.

One mid-sized car expected to be released in July is the Clover.

Yu Chenglong, vice director of marketing for Chang'an Motors says: "The car we are looking at now integrates energy conservation, zero carbon, and so is green. It is an electric car, zero emissions. It also has our "in drive" technology with our intelligent drive system."

Electric cars are the latest industry in which Beijing hopes to use China's fast-growing market as leverage to develop its own technology and global brands.

It 2009 China surpassed the US in the number of vehicles sold annually and foreign producers are looking to China to drive sales, putting them under pressure to cooperate.

Yu Chenglong said: "This time we have 15 finished automobiles, two engines, and three transmissions, showing our technical research and development strength, we are trying to develop our range, called "ultimate, future life", for our Chinese consumers."

Electric cars also are a key part of China's efforts to curb its voracious appetite for imported oil and gas, which Chinese leaders see as a strategic weakness.

Beijing is trying to generate demand by promising subsidies of $9,200 per electric vehicle. Cities are being given grants to buy electric buses and taxis.

Bill Russo, a former Chrysler executive and analyst, said: "What China is trying to do is mass-market EVs, that's very tough, when you have a product that is inherently more expensive than the alternative which is a vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine."

However electric cars offer China a fresh start in a field with no entrenched leaders.

The burgeoning Chinese electric brands of today could be the industry giants in the future.

(Source: AP- HZ from Shanghai)

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