Global Auto Makers Descend on Beijing
Over 90 new Chinese car models including Hyundai¡¯s Verna on display at Beijing Auto Show to grab the attention of Chinese customers
Hyundai Motor Co. introduced its latest small car model, the Verna, at the Beijing International Motor Show 2010 on April 23 at the New International Exhibition Center where major international automakers displayed over 90 of their new car models including Chinese car makers, signaling the emergence of Chinese automakers as a force to contend with in the world car market.
Vice Chairman Chung Ui-son of the Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group, spoke in English at the unveiling of the Verna at the auto show, which is equipped with a hands-free wireless microphone. He said the Verna was unveiled in Beijing even before it is introduced in Korea, which shows the importance of the Chinese car market to Hyundai Motor.
The vice chairman said the Verna is like its sister models sold in China, which are all tailor-made for Chinese customers. Those models include the likes of Wiedong (Avante in Korea), Linshang (NF Sonata) and Mingwi (EF Sonata). The new Verna will have its debut in Korea at the end of the year or early next year, Hyundai officials said.
Chung said Hyundai Motor is building its third car plant in China with an annual capacity of 300,000 cars to cope with increased demand for cars in China. Both Hyundai and Kia will produce and sell cars tailor-made for their Chinese customers.
Chung told reporters after the debut of the Verna, the Beijing motor show is catching up with other major auto shows around the world such as Paris, Geneva and Frankfurt, and its been growing year after year in terms of the number of new car models and spectators, thus garnering more attention than rival auto shows. ¡°We, the Korean automakers, have to bear that in mind¡± he said.
Asked to comment on Chinese automakers, he said that some of them have been making investments in a number of key areas of production with some turning out quality cars. ¡°But, we are not concerned because we will just follow our set strategies, which are to upgrade the quality and design of our cars,¡± Chung said.
Major carmakers at the show included BMW AG, with CEO Norbert Reithofer leading the company¡¯s activities at the show. He said BMW will increase its car production capacity to 300,000 units per year from the current 40,000 units to cope with demand in China, which will increase enormously down the road. He said the Chinese auto market is changing the world car market. The BMW plan has to be considered very ambitious due to the fact that the BMW is a luxury brand whose sales last year totaled 1.3 million around the world. The German automaker feels its car production facilities should be expanded by that much to be able to meet the demand for its cars in China in the near future.
The BMW CEO believes that China will overtake Britain as the third largest market for its cars in the world after the U.S. and Germany, which was why so many BMW executives came to the auto show.
CEO Kevin Wale of GM China said GM expects some 3 million of its cars will be sold in China in 2015 and the largest U.S. automaker has been putting a lot of effort into increasing its share of the Chinese car market lately.
He said the MPV5 is the car model produced using the technologies that went into making the Chevrolet Volt, which is an electric car without any fossil fuel emissions, a completely environment-friendly car.
CEO Winfried Vahland of Volkswagen Group China said that the automaker projects to sell up to 2 million cars in China in 2018.
With more than 100 exhibitors from around the world unveiling more than 90 new concept or production vehicles this week, it¡¯s clear that the competition in China is hitting a frenetic pace.
On display here include Volkswagen¡¯s new full-sized luxury sedan, the Phaeton, and Ford¡¯s Start concept vehicle with its ¡°EcoBoost¡± three-cylinder engine. General Motors is showing off 37 production and concept vehicles alone, including the world debuts of its Volt MPV5 electric crossover and its Sail hatchback.
¡°China is the greatest opportunity for auto sales since the post-WWII era in the United States,¡± said one industry executive. ¡°Everyone wants a piece of it.¡± Indeed, the competition here stands in stark contrast to the cool expectations expressed at the Detroit auto show this past January ¡ª and with good reason.
While auto sales last year in the United States plummeted by 21 percent as consumer demand went into a tailspin alongside the economy, car and truck sales in China soared to the point that the Asian giant overtook the United States for the first time, as measured by unit sales. Last year, helped by its stimulus plan, China for the first time outpaced the United States, selling about 13.6 million cars and trucks, versus 10.5 million units in the United States. nw