In 2017, worldwide sales of passenger cars and light commercial vehicles increased 2,4%, according to JATO Dynamics figures, based on their data of 52 markets. Slightly more than 2 million additional vehicle sales compared to 2016 make for a new total of 86,05 million global car sales. Passenger car sales were up 2,3% to 82 million and LCV sales were up 4,4% to 4,05 million vehicles. 13 out of the 52 markets showed double digit growth including Russia, Argentina and Thailand, balancing small declines in major markets like the UK, United States, South Korea and Mexico. Growth in China slowed to just 2,3% from 17% in 2016. India and Brazil were other engines of growth, the former setting a third consecutive annual sales record and the latter recovering from a decline the year before. [Read more…]
Months ago I wrote about China’s domestic OEMs fast evolving automotive design capabilities (see Chinese Cars: Just Copycats?).
This time I want to highlight another developing aspect of the Chinese market: foreign brands are now frequently designing cars exclusively for the China. This is an expensive practice, but one that is justified by the market size, particular tastes of (some) Chinese customers, and the business dynamics between these brands and their local joint-venture partners. As an example, the domestic Compact Car segment is so large, that by itself it would rank among the 5 largest car markets in the world. This means automakers have to cater to large and diverse customer groups; hence the opportunity for several models from individual brands to effectively compete in it.
One may start thinking of how some of the China-exclusive models might fare if exported or produced abroad, which is exactly the point I would like to open for debate today. Certainly it would be no hardship to export into Emerging Markets; China’s regulations, environmental and usage requirements are as strict ― or stricter ― than most, so changes would be few and small in scope (with the exception of right-hand drive conversions). For Developed Markets, some extra engineering might be required to comply with safety regulations and requirements, but since many of the China-unique models are based on global platforms, it should be quite feasible. I suspect the greatest challenge is that these models are Made-in-China, which is a pity as the design, development philosophy and practices, as well as the quality and sophistication of tools and equipment are far more important than the country of manufacture. Chinese plants, for example, are among the newest in the world, and well-equipped given the massive recent investment. It’s a pity potential international customers are still locked in the old paradigm, but perceptions do matter. I have no qualms about buying a Chinese-made BMW, Honda, etc. I would even seriously consider some of the latest domestic brand products from Geely, BYD, Haval, Roewe and others.
Moving on, here are some interesting foreign brand ― in alphabetical order, not importance ― models made exclusively (at least so far) in China and for China. Let us know, by commenting, if you believe any of them would have appeal outside of China. [Read more…]
Audi e-tron quattro Concept
The Audi e-tron quattro Concept previews the Tesla Model X-rivalling Audi Q6, which will be presented in early 2018. It uses the power of three electric motors; one drives the front axle, the other acts on the rear axle. Total output is 435 hp and in boost mode it can mobilize up to 500 hp and 800 Nm torque. It accelerates from standstill to 100 km/h in 4.6 seconds, while its electronically governed top speed is 210 km/h. The battery’s capacity of 95 kWh should enable a range of more than 500 kilometers. With its length of 4.88 metres, width of 1.93 metres and height of 1.54 metres, it fits between the Audi Q5 and Audi Q7, and its luggage capacity is 615 litres.
Bugatti Vision Gran Turismo Concept
The Vision GranTurismo showcases Bugatti’s new design language and previews the Chiron, which should debut at the Geneva Motor Show next spring, although the Volkswagen emissions scandal could delay the new ‘Chiron’ hypercar.