NEVs steal the Beijing Auto Show

China's largest auto show opened in Beijing on Thursday with the biggest names showing off their latest electric vehicles (EVs), underlining how the world's largest auto market is already in an all-electric mode, with no looking back.

24 China Show1

Automakers are set to unveil 117 new models compared to 93 at last year's show in Shanghai, while overall 278 new energy vehicles (NEVs) will go on display, seven more than last year, organisers said.

The show, which runs through to early next month, comes as NEV sales hit a milestone in early April, accounting for over 50% of cars sold in China, auto association data showed.

Sales have been getting a boost from a year-long price war that has sapped profit margins, as automakers strive to keep up by announcing newer, cheaper models and promotions.

"At the Beijing auto show, it’s a given that interest in gasoline vehicles has no doubt waned. Everyone is looking for the latest technologies in intelligence and electrification," said William Li, founder and CEO of Chinese EV maker, Nio.

"If you come here, you should have no doubt about EVs anymore. It is actually not the future but is what's happening right now."

Crowds flooded the booths of Chinese manufacturers such as BYD and industry newcomer, Xiaomi, with the smartphone maker stealing the show by holding one of the earliest press events. Xiaomi CEO, Lei Jun, said locked-in orders for its sporty SU7 sedan had hit 75,723 and that buyers included owners of cars from the likes of BMW and Audi.

BYD, the world's largest EV maker, heavily promoted its Yangwang and Denza premium brands as it tries to shed its image as a low-cost automaker.

It also announced the Ocean-M, a sporty rear-wheel-drive hatchback priced 150 000 to 200 000 yuan (R390 000 and R520 000), which will be the first vehicle built on a new all-electric platform. The mid-sized car targets China's middle class and sells far below the price of mainstream EVs in North America and Europe.

Foreign automakers, who have been scrambling to reset their China strategies and catch up with the electric shift, touted plans to invest more in local production and research, with Japan's Nissan Motor and Mazda Motor unveiling cars tailored for Chinese drivers.

US automaker, General Motors, has for the first time left traditional internal combustion vehicles out of its show line-up, while Germany's Mercedes Benz dismissed rumours that it was giving up on electrification as it showed a handful of new EVs.

Tesla skipped the show once again. Its last appearance was in 2021 when an irate customer clambered atop a Tesla being displayed to protest how the company handled her complaints about brakes she said were malfunctioning.

Some Chinese brands outlined overseas plans, brushing off European and US concerns about industry overcapacity and stressed they had simply become better through innovation.

"With the Chinese automotive industry entering a new era of globalisation and the growing strength of Chinese domestic brands, Chinese vehicles moving onto the world stage have also become a new trend," said Great Wall Motor President, Mu Feng.

- Reuters.

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