They say the global recession has finally hit China, but you’d be hard pressed to tell by the frenetic pace of Shanghai, host of this year’s Chinese motor show – and the backdrop for a flood of new vehicles, including the production version of the Porsche Panamera 4-door sports car.
Once little more than a regional outpost for marginal native nameplates. The Shanghai Motor Show – which alternates every other year with Beijing – has become one of the most important events in the automotive world. And it could become even more significant in the years to come, considering that as of January, China is on pace to surpass the U.S. as the world’s largest automotive market.
The Shanghai and Beijing shows, meanwhile, could soon eclipse the faltering Tokyo Motor Show, which organizers nearly cancelled for 2009 due to weak foreign participation. With the Japanese market all but closed to imports, manufacturers would rather focus their recession-restricted budgets on markets where they might actually sell their products. And China certainly qualifies.
In recent years, the Chinese government has steadily rolled back restrictions on the industry, and has taken numerous steps, at both the national and local level, to prop up automotive demand during the recession. Beijing has, for example, enacted new tax cuts on fuel-efficient vehicles. It’s also taking steps to boost sales in more poorer, more rural regions of the country. All told, the various moves helped push demand, in March, to 1.1 million vehicles. That was a 5 percent increase – and marked the third month in a row that sales exceeded those in the economically-depressed U.S.
The Shanghai Motor Show will play a critical role in building demand even further. Close to 100 different manufacturers will display at the city’s sprawling convention facility, including scores of local marques, such as Roewe and Great Wall. In recent years, Beijing has quietly been encouraging a shake-out among Chinese local makers, forcing the weaker among them to sell out or close all together.