Here we are! We have now come to the end of our ranking of the most impressive Chinese carmakers at this year’s Beijing Auto Show. You can see Part 1 (#30 to #21) here, Part 2 (#20 to #11) here, Part 3 (#10 to #6) here, Part 4 (#5 to #3) here and Part 5 (#2) here. And the winner is…
1. Geely (2,17)
After two consecutive years of Haval domination (see 2014 and 2015), in 2016 the most impressive Chinese carmaker in Beijing is Geely. Everything is clicking into place for the owner of Volvo, from its stand refinement, personnel, models exhibited, novelties, interiors and brochures. Last time I saw Geely in Beijing two years ago it ranked at a paltry 17th place as it was still giving off a confused brand image. Last year in Shanghai the brand shot up to 2nd place overall thanks to an extremely impressive GC9 flagship.
This year, the Geely stand at the Beijing Auto Show definitely had premium notes, with black floor, shiny tiles to enhance its superstar GC9 sedan – now a sales blockbuster with a peak above 6.000 units last December – and show off its “Prime Research China Car of the Year 2016” trophy. Next to the Geely logo high up above the stand and on the main desk, a “Founded in 1957” with a separate logo picturing a man swimming could be found. The origin of this is still unclear as Geely was founded in 1986 as a refrigerator parts manufacturer with money borrowed from family, but the effect on the public is of one marque that has been established for a while. Also, and this is a big plus as one of my pet hates: Geely has removed all models with defunct brand logos on their grille (such as Gleagle or Shanghai Englon) with all models exhibited sporting a Geely logo – seems like it would go without saying, but not in China where brand strategies can be convoluted.
A heart-warming element at the Geely stand and one that has played a large role in propelling the brand to #1 in our ranking is its intact hunger. Far from losing itself in its sophisticated aspirations, Geely made sure it hired high achievers as its hosts. One in particular, pictured above, went to extensive lengths to promote the new Boyue SUV, always finding an angle to attract by-passers into the conversation and never confining himself to just answering questions. Unprompted, Geely is bent on your experiencing its models to the fullest and this attitude is unique among Chinese carmakers. Two new models were presented at the Show:
Derived from a concept presented here in Beijing two years ago, the GS has ok exterior design but impresses mostly with its interior quality and materials that are normally seen on cars costing at least two to three times more. The good news is Geely is already trickling down what it showcased in its ground-breaking GC9 through all its new launches.
This is also true for the much-anticipated Boyue SUV. Although technically not a world premiere, Beijing is the first major Auto Show for the Boyue and Geely didn’t spare any efforts to get as many members of the press and public to come an experience inside and out what it hopes will be its new best-seller shortly. If its front design is somewhat bland, the back looks like a Range Rover Evoque – in a good way. And the interior is simply the best of any Chinese car after bar Geely GC9 in terms of material quality, refinement and design.
The Geely’s engine compartment is striking in its layout, leaving the engine at the centre but filling the rest with compact plastic covers that can be opened to reach various tools, a very impressive display that definitely smells like a premium car. All this for a price starting at an impossibly low 98.800 yuan (US$ 15.200). The Geely brochures are in line with this overall outstanding picture: their toned-down colours and velvety touch exude refinement. I’m sold.
Congratulations Geely! We’ll be back next year for the 2017 Shanghai Auto Show.