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December 5, 2016

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SUVs hog the spotlight at Guangzhou Auto Show

WITH China as a primary battleground for global car manufacturers desperate for sales growth, the Guangzhou Auto Show has been steadily rising in stature. It is now the third-largest of its kind in China.

The unveiling of new models, once reserved for shows in Detroit and Paris, is now a fixture at the Guangzhou Auto Show, which was held this year from November 18-27 in the Guangdong Province capital.

In addition to vehicle debuts, automakers are using the platform to announce the new strategies in car development and marketing.

At this year’s show, 1,130 models were on display, including 56 in global debuts. The exhibition also featured 146 new energy vehicles and 19 concept cars.

Car sales in China jumped 18 percent in the first 10 months of the year, against marginal increases predicted at the year’s beginning.

Volkswagen displayed its I.D. concept vehicle, which was first unveiled at the Paris Auto Show, to vaunt its emphasis on green cars. It also signed agreements with the domestic mobility program providers like Didi Chuxing and Shouqi Group, and invested in Shouqi’s GoFun, which provides ride-hailing and new-energy car sharing services. Volkswagen hopes to enhance their mobility ecosystem through the combination of the green energy, the mobility service and the awareness of shared economy.

Nissan rolled out its i3 project, part of the “Young Nissan 3.0 Era,” which is aimed at developing self-driving technology, clean energy vehicles and use of artificial intelligence in car networking.

Some automotive companies, like Lamborghini, choose to synchronize the debuts of new models between the Guangzhou and Los Angeles auto shows.

Though a lot is said about the emergence of clean-emission cars as the trend of the future, the present remains firmly rooted in popular SUVs.

Sales of sports utility vehicles, usually with four-wheel drive, accounted for 36 percent of vehicles sold in China in the first 10 months of the year. That adds up to annual growth of 46 percent.

No slowdown in the popularity of SUVs in the Chinese market is forecast, so it wasn’t surprising that more than 25 new SUV models were unveiled at the Guangzhou show.

The seven-seat SUV has emerged as the industry’s latest “killer product” for off-road excursions, bolstered by the nation’s new “second children” policy that will enlarge the size of some families.

Apart from the Toyota Highlander and Ford’s Edge, the new generation of Land Rover Discovery models was also unveiled. The vehicle is 144 millimeters longer than its former incarnation, with an extra 38 millimeters of wheelbase and innovative 5+2 seating.

Jaguar Land Rover Public Ltd said it is focusing more on high technology in its vehicles, including like voice interaction as a key to car networking.

“We value the Chinese market very much,” said Jean Philippe Soula, engineer manager of the new generation Discovery. “Land Rover will make voice interaction realizable.”

After launching its champion model Tiguan seven years ago, Shanghai-based SAIC unveiled two new SUVs in Guangzhou.

One is the Skoda Kodiaq, which shares the same platform and power assembly with the new generation Tiguan, but offers higher performance. The other new SUV model is the large Teramont, part of the VW-SAIC collaboration.

Not to be outdone by foreign rivals, domestic Chinese carmakers also displayed their increasing lineups of SUVs.

Guangzhou Auto’s 2017 Trumpchi GS8 carries a sticker price ranging between 163,800 yuan (US$23,739) and 259,800 yuan. It competes with Toyota’s Highlander.

Changan Auto exhibited its full size CS95 SUV again, after making revisions in response to some negative feedback at the Beijing Auto Show earlier this year.

Dongfeng Nissan, a subsidiary of Dongfeng Motor Co, unveiled its medium-size SUV T90, which shares the Nissan C platform with Koleos. The T90 is somewhat larger and more spacious. It’s priced in a range of between 120,000 yuan and 160,000 yuan, targeting middle-class families in second- and third-tier Chinese cities.

SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile, a venture of SAIC, General Motors, and Liuzhou Wuling Motors Co, displayed its new compact SUV Baojun 510. It is priced at around 60,000 yuan.

In the realm of new energy cars, plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles pointed to the future.

Green pioneers proudly strutted out their visions for that future, including BYD’s Song, Trumpchi’s GS4 and Roewe’s eRX5. E-hybrid models included the Audi A6L e-tron and the Cadillac CT6.

Luxury automakers are trying to convince the motoring public that it can still enjoy dynamic engine performance in car that reduces pollution.

Volvo, Porsche and Ford unveiled models that combine internal combustion with new energy technology. The S90L, a flagship sedan of Volvo, made its debut at the Guangzhou show, along with the S90 plug-in. The second-generation of Porsche Panameras were also exhibited, along with the Porsche 4 E-Hybrid.

Mercedes-Benz unveiled its Generation EQ concept at the show, competing for attention with the luxury Lexus UX concept car. Audi rolled out its Prologue Piloted Driving concept, while Buick showed off its Velite New Energy concept car.

Sales of green passenger vehicles totaled 240,497 units in the first 10 months of the year, staking China out as the world’s new energy champion. Sales of battery electric vehicles jumped by 152 percent to 172,000 units, while plug-in hybrids rose 48 percent to 69,000 units.


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