Auto Shanghai 2015: Most impressive Chinese carmakers (Summary)

30. Kawei logoLet’s play guess the logo.

After going through 35 different Chinese carmakers (backwards) in my ‘most impressive’ ranking, our heads are all spinning and there’s nothing better than a good old table to make them stop and summarise everything. You’re welcome. (Click on the brand to see the full article)

Auto Shanghai 2015: The most impressive Chinese carmakers:

Pos Brand Claim to fame +
1 Haval Great Wall’s SUV brand Multilayered stand, overall quality, responsiveness Confusing new red/blue logo strategy, cloned designs
2 Geely Owner of Volvo Extremely impressive new GC9 flagship Defunct brand logos still on models exhibited
3 BYD Warren Buffett bought shares New launches spot on trend, very clear strategy Only starting to revive, needs confirmation
4 Hongqi Supplier of China’s President Sophisticated stand, splendid new LS5 SUV Untapped brand potential, needs to emancipate itself
5 Leopaard Originated as a China Army supplier Authenticity, overall quality of new CS10 SUV Limited lineup
6 Qoros Joint venture between Chery & Israel European stand, against the grain 2 PHEV concept Lacks credibility due to limited sales
7 ChangAn Ford’s joint-venture partner in China Very dynamic and savvy commercial stand (Chana) Apart from CS75 SUV, lagging interior quality
8 Soueast Mitsubishi’s partner in China Impressive interior quality for the DX7 & V Cross Needs to cut the Mitsubishi umbilical cord for good
9 Baojun SAIC-GM’s low cost brand Clears its stand to introduce the new 560 SUV Limited presence at the Show
10 Foton Tunland Pickup exported overseas Very consistent ‘loud’ positioning Low level of refinement
11 Dongfeng Owns 15% of PSA Peugeot-Citroen Consistent across a multitude of stands Austere and average interiors
12 GAC Featured in Transformers 4 Very modern and impressive GA8 flagship Unclear brand strategy
13 Maxus “Hot seller in Australia” Fast growing brand, savvy sales person Overselling “success” in Australia
14 Roewe Rover reborn as a Chinese brand Impressive flagship 950 Dangerously becoming pompous, lacks spark
15 Lifan Produces a Mini clone Gets that its survival resides in SUVs. Launched two. Low quality interiors
16 JMC Produces Ford SUVs in China Outrageous concept cars Outrageous concept cars
17 Zotye My heart vote at Beijing 2014 5 all-new models exhibited Cold. Grown too fast?
18 Huasong The only all-new brand at the Show Polished and understated stand Disappointing interior. Real need for a new brand?
19 JAC Largest Chinese brand launch in Brazil Timely S2 mini SUV launch, some funky interiors Too many logos, bland exteriors
20 Chery QQ clone of the Chevrolet Matiz Hungry attitude, suprisingly good interiors Bland designs
21 Kawei Sells a Ford F-150 clone Enthusiastic and spontaneous Sells a Ford F-150 clone
22 MG Yes, it’s that MG Finally getting an SUV with the GS Chinese-English blended flair getting lost
23 Venucia Nissan’s Chinese low-cost brand No real new model, Vow concept far off reality Still lacking substance and a story
24 Jinbei Produces a rebadged Toyota Hiace Single minded positioning, decent lineup exhibited Unexciting
25 Brilliance BMW’s partner in China New V3 small SUV Plastic, harsh and hollow interiors
26 Haima Originally Mazda’s partner in China Trying to become more sporty No dynamism, no new SUV
27 Joylong More famous for buses Going all out with a premium MPV Very limited lineup
28 Landwind Sells a Range Rover Evoque clone Smart cloning of Evoque? Decent interior quality Clones foreign manufacturers, very lazy fittings
29 Higer Sounds like a refrigerator brand A surprisingly large commercial stand Over-priced, dated products
30 Howo Helps build China’s infrastructure Clear efforts to make the brand appealing Definitely a commercial vehicle feel
31 Hawtai Sells rebadged Hyundai SUVs Larger stand makes the brand appear bigger Extremely flimsy materials – feels like breaking
32 FAW FAW-Daihatsu sedan used to be #1 Some slight design improvements in passenger cars Poor quality interiors across the entire lineup
33 BAIC Owns Saab technology BJ20 Jeep looking funky Plain experiors, cheap interiors, confused branding
34 Changhe Suzuki’s partner in China n/a Over-priced, bottom of the ladder product
35 Denza Joint venture between BYD & Daimler n/a Expensive, bland product, sleep-inducing press conf
Wuling Best-selling domestic brand in China n/a Absent at the Show
Lianhua Chinese Lotus n/a Absent at the Show
ZX Auto Pickups used by Libyan rebels n/a Absent at the Show

Next year we will return to Beijing for a new ranking…

24. Brilliance V3Brilliance will need more than the V3 SUV to go up my ranking in 2016…

Auto Shanghai 2015: The most impressive Chinese carmakers (5/5)

2. SUVHaval Concept R

This is Part 5 of my ranking of the most impressive Chinese carmakers at the Show. You can check out Part 1 (from #35 to #21) herePart 2 (from #20 to #11) here, Part 3 (from #10 to #6) here and Part 4 (from #5 to #2) here.

Like in Beijing last year, I was most impressed by Haval at Auto Shanghai, and for a variety of reasons. Haval is Great Wall’s SUV marque, a standalone brand since July 2013. Above all, having topped my ranking last year already, I had high expectations for the brand and they didn’t disappoint, which was a very significant achievement on its own.

Haval stand 2

Haval standThe multi-layered Haval stand at Auto Shanghai 2015

Haval is the only manufacturer in the entire Auto Shanghai (not just the Chinese carmakers) to have built a multi-layered stand, displaying no less than 28 vehicles. It reminded me of Mercedes going all out at the Frankfurt Auto Show in 2013. Haval was the only Chinese manufacturer in an exhibition hall almost exclusively dedicated to SUV brands, sitting next to Jaguar Land Rover and Jeep. No inferiority complex and a willingness to play with the big boys earned my respect once again and put Haval in a sphere of its own among Chinese carmakers.

Haval H6 CoupeHaval H6 Coupe

Once on the stand, although I was bracing myself for a couple of new, unheard-of before models, I got an avalanche of new fares. Two concepts looking very aggressive and very sexy indeed, the Concept B and R (for Blue and Red) were royally waving at the crowd from their elevated stage, hinting at a future range-topping model slotted above the H9 (H10?) that hopefully will be unveiled in Beijing next year. Haval relaunched its best-seller, the H6, just before my eyes, adding a very appealing H6 Coupe variant in the mix. So just to clarify, the H6 was already facelifted a little more than a year ago when the H6 Sport launched and quickly accounted for the majority of the H6 nameplate sales, and now the nameplate is completely renewed, looking better than ever. I was amazed at Hyundai replacing their models every 3 years, but it looks like Haval is doing so every 18 months. Keeping in mind two years ago Haval wasn’t even a standalone brand, this pace is simply astounding.

Haval H7Haval H7

But that wasn’t all. A completely new Haval nameplate made its first appearance at Auto Shanghai: the H7, introduced in two variants: the H7 and H7L extended wheelbase, each featuring different front designs and effectively looking like two different vehicles altogether. That’s four new Haval models with very strong sales potential making their debut at Auto Shanghai 2015. Everything I appreciated at the Haval stand in Beijing last year remained true this year, only in a much larger scale. Host(esse)s open the door for you to slide inside each car and close it behind you, are very helpful and answer all your questions in perfect English. All nameplates are present, including the H1 looking very cool inside with coloured dashboards assorted with the exterior paint, the H2 now a trusted best-seller, the patched-up H5 and H6 Classic and the flagships H8 and H9. So it’s all good and well in the best of worlds for Haval? Not quite.

Haval Concept BHaval Concept B

Firstly, Haval unveiled a new Red/Blue logo strategy at the Show. It’s a mystery to me that Chinese manufacturers are obsessed with ruining something very clear, single-minded and efficient in their hands by confusing the heck out of it. The success and growth of the SUV-exclusive Haval brand in China in the past two years is potentially the most impressive strategic achievement of any Chinese carmaker, ever. Now to confuse it with two different philosophies and logos. Labelled as “an impressive fission of Haval that will bring the brand to a new level” (cough), this new strategy means Haval’s products will now be divided into two lines represented by a red or a blue logo. “Luxurious and classic Red Logo Haval targets mainstream families, and cool and trendy Blue Logo Haval targets young consumers” (Haval words). In the future, Haval’s sales network will be divided into the red network and the blue network, too. What?!

Haval H6 Coupe 3This H6 Coupe has a red logo and looks a lot like the H7…

The Concept R (for Red) and B (for Blue) were used to launch this new logo strategy, but the Concept R was looking much more aggressive and sexy with its Audi-inspired grille whereas the Concept B, although classy with its thin headlights and hexagonal grille, was a lot blander. So mainstream families prefer aggressive styling whereas the youth wants conservative? I think you got it all wrong there Haval. Armed with this info, I had to go through all models displayed on the Haval stand one more time to see if I could guess whether their logo should be red or blue. And then I discovered the H6 Coupe was shown in two different-looking variants: one with a red logo, one with a blue. So the H6 now comes as H6 Classic, H6 Sport, New H6, H6 Coupe blue and H6 Coupe red, that’s five different vehicles. If this doesn’t cement the #2 ranking it snapped in April in the overall Chinese models ranking, I don’t know what will. The H1 had a blue logo (makes sense), the H5 and H6 Classic also (because they’re older and cheap?), the H7 had a red one (logical) but the H7L a blue one (what?)… I give up.

Haval H1Blue logo’ed Haval H1

Having its range expand from essentially one nameplate (the H5) three years ago to 12 vehicles today and potentially 15 within a few months when the Concept R and B come to life, Haval has displayed the fastest lineup expansion I have witnessed in the course of the almost 30 years I have spent studying the global automotive industry. Enormous kudos should go to Great Wall for having the guts to separate the Haval brand from the rest of the Great Wall lineup in the first place, making it a credible standalone SUV specialist brand and growing it so smartly and so fast.

Haval H5Haval H5 Classic celebrating 10 (youthful?) years of existence with a blue logo.

However there is one last thing I must mention before I’m done with Haval and Auto Shanghai 2015. The same way Volkswagen has lost themselves in their success and started spitting clones a couple of years ago, Haval snouts are starting to look dangerously similar: The H6 Coupe looks like the Concept R while the new H6 now looks like a H7 that is a smaller clone of the H8 which in turn takes clues from the H6 Sport and the H2. Caution Haval, don’t ruin a perfectly oiled machine even before you take your brand overseas.

This concludes my coverage of Auto Shanghai 2015, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it. The next Auto show we will cover at BSCB is Frankfurt in September this year, so stay tuned!

Auto Shanghai 2015: The most impressive Chinese carmakers (4/5)

82. Leopaard CS10Leopaard CS10

This is Part 4 of my ranking of the most impressive Chinese carmakers at Auto Shanghai 2015. You can check out Part 1 (from #35 to #21) herePart 2 (from #20 to #11) here and Part 3 (from #10 to #6) here. I let the suspense build up but we are finally coming to the 5 most impressive Chinese carmakers. By now either the carmakers in question have made tremendous progress compared to last year in Beijing, or they are simply world class. And we start with the ‘Most improved’ award…

84. Leopaard logoLeopaard logo

5. (29) Leopaard

This is my biggest surprise of Auto Shanghai. While in Beijing last year I actually discovered this new brand, it made such progress in the past 12 months that it now deserves a spot in my Top 5 most impressive Chinese carmakers, easily earning the ‘Most improved’ award. But first let’s backtrack a tiny bit. Up until 2014, the brand Leopaard was called Lièbào, meaning cheetah (close enough). Lièbào/Leopaard is a brand of GAC Chengfeng Motor, in turn wholly owned by GAC Group but originally a branch of the People’s Liberation Army (sir yes sir). Changfeng used to restrict the use of the Lièbào brand to Mitsubishi Pajero variations built under license from Mitsubishi which used to own 15% of Changfeng until 2011 when it sold its participation in the company. Not anymore. Leopaard is now free to run fast, and its affiliation with GAC Group gives us a hint to its impressive progression this year.

83. Leopaard CS10 unveilingLeopaard Press Conference at Auto Shanghai 2015. No prompts!

Even though GAC does not rank very high this year (#12), it still impressed by its ambition and dynamism, and it has injected all of it into the Leopaard brand. The Press Conference was unusually heart-felt and authentic, with a very good, confident and genuinely motivated female presenter introducing the product and guests speakers with authority, kindness and professionalism. Very far from an automated, nervous delivery that can characterise such roles (I’ve seen a few at the Show), this presenter actually expressed emotion and accentuated her speech with flashes of enthusiasm that didn’t feel forced – an achievement in itself. Repetitive expressions in her speech evoking enthralled political rallies (in a good way), executives all very good in their own way and certainly not boring, and absolutely no video nor hand prompts for any of the presenters made the Leopaard press conference the most profesionally handled of any Chinese carmaker at the Show (I told you I was impressed).

85. Leopaard CS10 detail 86. Leopaard CS10 interiorLeopaard CS10 headlight detail and interior

The entire Press Conference was delivered with one about-to-be-unveiled CS10 SUV but it’s not one but – surprise – four example that drove onto the stage and above the audience at reveal time. Cute little mise-en-scene reinforced the goodwill I have towards this brand. As for the CS10 itself, although not a marvel of creative design, it looks easy on the eye front on and aggressive from the back – a difficult task for an SUV. The interior is refined, everything looks and feels polished and well finished, nothing weird or out of place stands out. All-in-all a very well-rounded delivery indeed from Leopaard, lightyears from their rushed stand in Beijing. Now to confirm with sales success. And that’s a whole different story…

Hongqi LS5Hongqi LS5

4. (2) Hongqi

I still have a soft spot for Hongqi (“red flag”), the only true Chinese luxury brand, owned by FAW. Adding on to the retro-cool L5 sedan concept and the H7 sedan, currently the only Hongqi model actually on sale to the public, Hongqi had the marvellous idea of unveiling the soon-to-be-produced LS5 SUV at Auto Shanghai. Spot on trend, this is what my unconscious mind was dreaming of to take this brand to the next level, and it did over-deliver.

Hongqi LS5 backHongqi LS5

Far from a bland reproduction of current SUVs and unlike the H7 which looks like a spruced-up previous generation Skoda Superb, the LS5 adds personal and typically Chinese touches like the motifs formed by the head- and taillights and the detail of its grille. I know some of you won’t agree, but the LS5 is my favourite Chinese model of Auto Shanghai. No less. The Hongqi LS5 is powered by a turbocharged petrol 4.0 litre engine mated to an 8 speed automatic gearbox giving off 381kW and 530Nm. Top speed is 220km/h and 0 to 100km/h are reached in 8.1 seconds.

Hongqi heritage

 

Hongqi VIP areaHongqi VIP area

Hongqi’s heritage, being the only custom-made presidential vehicle, is rightfully shown off on its stand with big photographs tracing the history of the brand (see above) and its luxury status shines with a delightfully decorated VIP area only accessible by invitation (I got invited thanks to CCTV, the #1 TV channel in China!) All looking very posh and refined and sophisticated. It’s all there. Hongqi is one of only a few Chinese brand (the only one?) to have a fantastic story to tell, and a unique positioning in the world: it can be worked up to be synonymous with Chinese sophistication. Not a single car brand can, has or will claim this. Gold. Yes but.

Hongqi logoHongqi logo on H7 steering wheel

Hongqi L5Hongqi L5 Concept

Yes but Hongqi should be careful not to rest on its laurels in a Chinese market that evolves at lightning speed. The LS5 is definitely the right step in the right direction but if the H7 interior looks great last year in Beijing, it has suddenly aged when compared to new upmarket Chinese models unveiled this year, such as the Geely GC9 to name but one.

Hongqi H7

Hongqi H7 interiorHongqi H7 and interior

But the main but is in the attitude. Again, bonus points for a stand completely separate in location and ambiance from mother brand FAW. However it’s time for Hongqi to get the corones to play with the big boys. Haval stood as the only Chinese brand in an exhibition hall almost entirely dedicated to SUV manufacturers. Makes sense. Hongqi should have taken JAC’s spot in the premium exhibition hall along with Lincoln, Lexus, Cadillac, BMW, Volvo and DS. Hongqi is starting to feel like a sleeping giant that doesn’t know it can run the 100m. You won’t know until you try, Hongqi.

87. BYD TangBYD Tang

3. (14) BYD

Last year BYD was strong but unsurprising and seemed caught in a bout of duplication of its successful S6, itself a dubious copy of the Lexus RX. This year in Shanghai, Build Your Dreams is back to doing just that, returning to its core capability: energy efficient cars. Utterly on trend, BYD unveiled two smaller PHEV SUVs to complete its lineup: the Song and Yuan, respectively named after Chinese and Mongolian dynasties. Note both accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in just 4.9 seconds, a “4.9S” badge proudly proclaiming it on each model’s rear door.

88. BYD Song YuanBYD Song and Yuan

Notice also the bicolour scheme a la Haval H2. Putting energy efficient nameplates in its range front and centre, BYD also announced that the Song and the Yuan are PHEV versions of upcoming, more conventional models respectively named S3 and S1. Bonus points for enthusiasm.

BYD strategy 1Can’t be clearer.

But what impressed me the most at BYD is the clarity of their strategy and their transparency sharing it with the media at Auto Shanghai. The entire Press Conference materials shown were dubbed in English and explain everything there is to know about the brand, its ambition and the strategy it is employing to meet its goals. BYD’s mission is to “Lead the new energy vehicle industry”. Its Green Mobility Strategy has two aspects: public transportation catered for by pure electric vehicles, and the private market catered for by plug-in hybrids.

90. BYD strategyBYD strategy

Looking back at its 2014 achievements, BYD noted that the Qin was China’s new energy vehicle sales leader with 14.717 units, having now launched in 8 domestic cities – Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Tianjin, Shanghai, Xi’an, Hangzhou, Nanjing and Changsha. BYD’s words for 2015 are: “2015 will be big” with planned 50.000 sales of plug-in hybrids, 15.000 pure electric e6 taxis and 6.000 electric buses, keeping in mind BYD now offers public electric transportation in 100 cities and 35 countries including London, Brussels and Rotterdam. In one presentation, BYD showed me clearly what it is aiming at and that, for once (it’s relatively rare for a Chinese manufacturer), its objectives were anchored in reality and logic. BYD wants to Build Your Dreams and it’s starting to get convincing at it.

89. BYD Tang SportBYD Tang Sport

91. BYD SongBYD Song

BYD also had the good idea to spice up its stand with a couple of sport SUV actually looking pretty mean like the Tang Sport pictured above in matte black. Finally, I really like the naming structure BYD has chosen for its energy efficient models: using traditional Chinese expressions and characters to baptise them. After the Qin sedan and the Shang MPV (introduced at Beijing 2014 but yet to be released) we now have the Tang, Song and Yuan SUVs. May I suggest later on applying this system to the entire range? That would be a breath of fresh air and a very clear point of differentiation in a Chinese carmaker universe packed with letters and numbers…

Geely standGeely stand: definitely an upmarket feel.

2. (17) Geely

We are now looking at the creme de la creme of all Chinese manufacturers present at Auto Shanghai. Geely ranked at a lukewarm #17 last year in Beijing because I found them unfocused and confusing. This year, Geely sent a loud and clear message that it was moving upwards into sophistication. I wouldn’t call them premium just yet and by a pretty large margin, but the progress the manufacturer has made in the past 12 months is nothing short of spectacular. Finally the benefits of purchasing Volvo a few years back are in the open for all to see. Starting with the stand, giving off a definitely upmarket vibe with posh little carry bags featuring golden handles, sleek silver and blue colour scheme and enthusiastic yet professionally reserved hostesses. All cars had their doors open for you by a host who would close them after you. Someone has been visiting the Haval stand in Beijing last year and got some ideas! And that’s a great sign.

Geely GC9Geely GC9

But the stand on its own would be far off elevating Geely to 2nd place overall in this ranking. Geely needed a flagship to demonstrate its shift upmarket and boy how it got it with the extremely impressive GC9, designed by Volvo’s head of design, and it shows. The GC9 takes Geely (and all Chinese manufacturers with it) into a completely different stage, now fully armed to compete with overseas brands. Yes I have said it. It was the question on everyone’s lips in the Chinese media: “Are we there yet?” “Do you think Chinese manufacturers are catching up with foreign ones?” “Can we do this?” In the Geely stand my answer is a clear and resounding yes.

Geely GC9 interior 3Geely GC9 interior 2 Geely GC9 interiorGeely GC9 interior

The GC9 interior depicted above is nothing short of astounding for a Chinese manufacturer. Stylish, exhaustive without being confusing, high tech and full of sophisticated notes such as this complete climate control console for rear passengers pictured above. The materials are solid, nice on the touch and comfortable. Very, very impressive indeed. All this for a ridiculously low price: the GC9 ranges from 119.800 to 229.800 yuan or US$ 19.300-37.100. Can’t believe what you’re reading? I couldn’t either at first.

But was Geely consistent in its interior quality or did it do a Roewe on us? Ranking #2 should give you a hint, and I was indeed very impressed by the brand’s two hot sellers so far in 2015: the facelifted EC7’s door clomp was the closest to a VW of all Chinese models I tested, and the completely revamped Vision’s glovebox’s slow and soft opening is lightyears ahead of a VW Santana whose glovebox crashes onto your knee with a flat, hollow and definitely cheap “clang!”. The Vision is priced between 52.900 and 65.900 yuan (US$ 8.500-10.600) whereas the Santana ranges from 84.900 to 123.800 yuan (US$13.700-20.000).

Now the coughing of VW sales so far in 2015 and the doubling of Geely sedan sales in the same period makes a lot more sense…

Geely PandaGeely Panda: what’s with the Gleagle logo?

A near perfect 10 for Geely so far. Except for one thing, and unfortunately this is one of my pet hates. The manufacturer smartly killed the Gleagle, Emgrand and Shanghai Englon brands last year to stremline its entire lineup under the Geely brand, choosing the Emgrand logo as its own. However at Auto Shanghai 2015 Geely still displayed one bright orange Panda Cross with a… Gleagle logo! And the cover of the Geely Golden Eagle Cross brochure features a car with a Shanghai Englon logo! Why oh why? You were so close Geely…

Auto Shanghai 2015: The most impressive Chinese carmakers (3/5)

60. Foton Tunland Big FootConsistently loud: Foton

This is Part 3 of my ranking of the most impressive Chinese carmakers at Auto Shanghai 2015. You can check out Part 1 (from #35 to #21) here and Part 2 (from #20 to #11) here. We are now entering the Top 10 most impressive brands, and by now most of the feedback I have for these carmakers is positive. Without further ado…

10. (25) Foton

Most Chinese manufacturers are too busy trying to hide their cheapskates past and climb up the premium ladder with more designs and improved quality (all commendable efforts by the way), that they forget to carve themselves a unique positioning in the market. Not Foton. The manufacturer is a heavy/medium truck specialist, notably through a joint-venture with Daimler selling its products under the Auman brand, ubiquitous on any Chinese construction site (or Mongolian, Vietnamese…).

62. Foton Sauvana interior63. Foton Sauvana interior 2Foton Sauvana interior

The brand only dabbles in the passenger car segment, and in Shanghai they launched the Sauvana SUV and the Toano van, two of their better-designed offerings to-date. The music was old-fashioned and loud, the press conference was Wheel of Fortune-loud, the ‘Big Foot’ style Tunland pickup was loud and the V3 microvan equipped with huge speakers was very loud. So why on earth would I place Foton at #10? Because their positioning is totally unique among domestic (and foreign) brands present in China.

61. Foton V3The Foton V3 “Nightclub” – the back door unveils the mother of all loudspeakers…

Foton is targeting the construction site universe – whether it be the truck drivers that don’t actually own the trucks they drive, the site manager, engineer, etc. It’s smart, they know their target market, don’t shy away from it, embrace it and give them exactly what they want. The Sauvana’s interior has nothing superfluous but is comfortable and sturdy. All the big Chinese lads that were wearing their sunnies inside the hall were sucked in. Everything about Foton’s delivery at Auto Shanghai was consistent. Well done.

74. Baojun 560Baojun 560

9. (12) Baojun

Since Beijing last year, Baojun has simply multiplied its monthly sales in China by 10 thanks to the most successful passenger car launch in the country’s history the 730 MPV, now clocking up 30,000 deliveries each month. So you would forgive them for basking in the glorious sun for a bit. That would be underestimating Baojun. Completely unbeknownst to me and showing another stroke of genius and ballsiness, Baojun clears up all its other models from its stand, including the 730, to make room for what could soon be one of China’s best-selling SUVs: the 560.

75. Baojun 560 interiorBaojun 560 interior

The stand technically also includes the Wuling brand but no models were shown. With a price starting at 80.000 yuan (US$12.900!), a satisfyingly modern design and an interior quality matching the 730, the Baojun 560 has all elements needed to be a hit. I am very impressed by how fast Baojun is tapping into the main trends at play in the Chinese market.

76. Soueast DX7Soueast DX7

8. (18) Soueast

If Haima is still struggling with doing it alone without Mazda influence in its cars, Soueast is making huge progress at emancipating itself from Mitsubishi, and has come a very long way since Beijing. The hero in the Soueast stand was the DX7 SUV, the brand’s very first entrant in the booming segment, sticking very faithfully to the R7 concept presented in Beijing last year. The interior feels expensive and comfortable and I loved how the rotary shifters feel smooth and heavy under the fingers.

76. Soueast DX7 interior77. Soueast DX7 interior 2Soueast DX7 interior

But it doesn’t stop there. The V Cross had some of the best-sounding door ‘clomp’ of the Chinese industry, the Soueast range brochure, matte-covered with shiny Chinese writing, is in the Top 3 premium looking for a Chinese carmaker, and Soueast ticks the new energy box with a good-looking V5 EV presented at the Show. Only few pieces of constructive feedback would be to take a leap of faith and separate out the Mitsubishi models from its stand – yes you produce them too but it will drive potential customers away from your brand. You are doing it right Soueast: the year-on-year improvement is spectacular.

78. Chana Oussan 1Chana Oussan

7. (8) ChangAn

Relaxed presenters at the ChangAn press conference showed a confident brand, an honest interior quality and great door clomps on the ChangAn CS75 and Raeton – among the best for Chinese models – are in line with my observations on the brand last year in Beijing and with the fantastic sales results ChangAn has been delivering of late. If in Beijing a bright pink Eado XT added a touch of playfulness, this year an aggressive bright yellow Eado XT racecar plays a similar role. Although outside of the CS75 and Raeton, most cars feel rather cheap still.

79. Chana Oussan interiorChana Oussan interior

It’s the commercial vehicle stand (technically for the Chana brand) that lifts ChangAn to such a high position in my ranking. Keen hostesses gave away goodie bags to everyone passing by, and that bag tagged along with me all the way to the Russian border in Mohe before dropping dead – a good effort. A charging station keeps people inside the stand and there is a rather cheesy activity with models dancing and jumping around but with this year’s imposed starlet-drought it kept photographers happy and snapping. Big thumps up for clearing the stand of all other models to focus on the all-new Oussan MPV – the same way Baojun did for the 560.

Chana’s Commercial Manager Allen was eager to engage in a friendly yet professional manner with me, asking all kinds of questions about my opinion of Chinese cars and what boxes do they need to tick for me to be satisfied. For once I was the one being interviewed and it was rather refreshing to see. When I asked him why there were no other Chana models exhibited on the stand, he had the perfect answer: ‘people have known these vehicles for years, so we don’t really need to show them again. If someone is interested I can give them all the information they need’, pulling out leaflets for the entire Chana lineup with a big smile. On top of your game Allen.

80. ChangAn RaetonChangAn Raeton interior

The negative – as is the case for so many Chinese carmakers – is the branding of course: the new Oussan MPV had a Chana logo on it, whereas I was told Chana was ChangAn’s commercial vehicle arm. It, as well as the entire stand, had a distinct passenger vehicle feel. Even Allen was a little confused. Although when you step inside the Oussan, despite the shiny tablets attached to the back of the front seats, the contrast with the sleek exterior design is blatant with a dashboard made of too much shiny plastic. In fact, it looks and feels like this is an MPV manufactured by an LCV company. Oh but wait…

80. Qoros standQoros stand

6. (25) Qoros

Qoros, a joint-venture between Chery and Israeli Corporation, has been touting itself as the most European of Chinese car manufacturers, hiring European designers and engineers to come up with their first offering, the 3 hatchback and sedan. Although their product is very well finished and up to European standards, selling just 39 units in 2014 in their test European country (Slovakia) and less than 4.000 at home in China whereas they claim to be able to produce 150.000 annual units has made me struggle to give Qoros much credibility.

80. Qoros Phev 2 conceptQoros PHEV 2 concept

Auto Shanghai may be the turning point that will change all that. It’s one thing to claim you want to achieve European standards with your cars, but it’s another to convince people they are on the right track. The Qoros press conference was the most relatable culturally to a foreign media audience, using a conversational format between two presenters speaking English the whole time, but the real game changer from Qoros was its stand, mimicking a Euopean café, complete with high stools and tables, a coffee bar and waiters serving complimentary finger food. Granted, this has nothing to do with cars but Qoros is aggressively creating a very distinct and clear brand image for itself that is essential if it wants to achieve the bold targets it has set itself. And it worked wonders at Auto Shanghai: the Qoros stand was packed to the rafters during the entire first media day, something no other manufacturer can claim, whether it be Chinese or foreign.

80. Qoros 3Qoros 3 crossover

About the cars now. If the bright red 3 crossover was nothing really new yet looked extremely sleek, the big novelty on the Qoros stand was the PHEV 2 concept, at once killing three birds/trends with one stone: the SUV, new energy and youth trends. Yes, Qoros is definitely on trend this year but it creatively goes against the grain with the PHEV 2 concept, whose confronting design turns a few conventions on their heads, one being the shape of the headlights, at a 90 degrees angle from absolutely all concept cars exhibited at Auto Shanghai. One thing though: in the midst of all this aspiring European vibe, the PHEV 2 featured big ‘made in China’ badges both on the front grille and on the back bumper, which, although obviously correct, is at odds with the rest of what Qoros is showing us here. So are we European or Chinese?

81. Qoros standQoros stand at Auto Shanghai 2015: packed to the rafters.

80. Qoros CoffeeQoros coffee

Auto Shanghai 2015: The most impressive Chinese carmakers (2/5)

72. Dongfeng Number 1Dongfeng ranks just outside the Top 10 this year.

This is Part 2 of my ranking of the most impressive Chinese carmakers at Auto Shanghai 2015, you can see Part 1 (#35 to #21) here. Today we are going from #20 to #11, and the manufacturers are now getting pretty smart. All the justifications behind the ranking are below.

34. Chery Alpha 5 conceptChery Alpha5 concept

20. (26) Chery

Last year Chery bored me, so I expected nothing from this manufacturer in Shanghai. And I was pleasantly surprised. A company with strong sales always gets my attention and contrary to what I predicted a year ago the Tiggo3 (#54 so far in 2015), Chery 2 (+83% to #80) and Tiggo5 (#100) are faring solidly indeed. The truth is, Chery’s glorious times at home are so far in the past that the carmaker is now hungry again. And it showed on its Shanghai stand. The sales guy was eager to jump in the new Tiggo5 1.5 Turbo and describe it to me in detail, also asking for my feedback on the car. All smiles, professional but not pompous, friendly but not casual. I liked the approach.

33. Chery Tiggo 5 1.5T interiorChery Tiggo5 1.5T interior

To top it off the interior quality of the Tiggo5 was much better than I remembered, or Chery has improved it specifically for this variant. I may not agree with the Arrizo and Tiggo sub-brand strategy but at least Chery does treat them as sub-brands: all Chery models feature… the Chery logo. Seems logical but go tell that to BAIC… And there seems to be some kind of logic behind the sub-brands: Tiggo has only SUVs and Arrizo has all the rest: for now the 3 and 7 sedans and the M7 MPV. You are on the right track Chery.

35. JAC A33 interiorJAC A33 interior

19. (9) JAC

JAC made the mistake of locating its passenger car stand in the premium exhibition hall, just next to DS and Lincoln and the only Chinese manufacturer in the entire hall. They should have swapped their location with FAW Hongqi, but more on this later. In comparison with its hall neighbours, JAC’s cars, mostly white, look positively cheap, but even when removing the comparison effect, JAC’s delivery on the passenger car side was uneven. Some very interesting interior designs, and I applaud the launch of the Refine S2 SUV which will undoubtedly be a sales blockbuster with a design a lot less confronting than the Refine S3 – #2 SUV overall in China in March.

36. JAC Refine S2JAC Refine S2

37. JAC A60JAC A60

But the logos were all over the place: the Audi A4-copycat A60 features the blue logo of the MPVs, none of which were open to media, whereas all passenger cars and some commercial vehicles have a star logo, pickups have a red logo and it goes on. Who would have though one brand could come up with so many permutations of the 3 letters forming its name?

38. JAC SunrayJAC Sunray

The reason why JAC doesn’t rank further down is its sophisticated commercial vehicle stand. With a smart black and red colour scheme, it was by far the best-looking stand of the entire commercial exhibition hall, the hostesses were very attentive and gave brochures in a carry-bag that you would rather expect from a posh passenger car brand. A few things to to move around for JAC next year, a good effort overall but seems only skin-deep.

39. Huasong 7Huasong 7

18. (-) Huasong

Each Chinese Auto Show brings its lot of new brands: last year in Beijing it was Leopaard (ranking very high this year) and this time it is Huasong, the third marque under the Brilliance umbrella along with its namesake brand and Jinbei. It’s always a surprise to look into the next stand, not recognise the car, look up and find a new brand altogether. Only in China. In market since March. Huasong presents the 7, a 7-seat luxury MPV with prices ranging from 237.700 to 287.700 yuan (US$38.300-46.300), making it one of the most expensive Chinese vehicles currently on sale.

40. Huasong standSmiley Huasong hostesses

The saleswomen were friendly, smiley and speaking English, gladly translating the name Huasong to me: “brilliant and bright”, keeping in mind Brilliance in Chinese is zhong hua. The product ticks the Chinese premium exterior design box (looking like a Volkswagen), the stand was polished, understated, and gave away branded bottles of water – the only ones in the entire Show (!).

41. Huasong 7 interiorDoes this look like a $46.300 interior? Nope.

Yet Brilliance needs to hire someone to design better-looking interiors real quick, and was it really necessary to create a 2nd brand specialised in MPVs which basically sells more luxurious Jinbeis? I’m yet to be convinced.

Zotye Damai X5Zotye Damai X5: wrong logo on the grille!

17. (7) Zotye

Little Zotye has grown. Too fast? Since Beijing when Zotye got my heart’s vote, the manufacturer has seen sales of its T600 SUV shoot up like a rocket, and its presence in Shanghai was in a different, bigger world altogether. Zotye has been hard at work and had no less than 5 new models exhibited at Auto Shanghai, the most of any Chinese manufacturer. The Zhima E30 EV and E200 EV give Zotye an impressive EV lineup, the Z700 is the brand’s new flagship, already bumping the Z500 atht went on sales a couple of months ago, the Damai X5 is a new SUV that should take Zotye sales to the next level and the T600 concept reminiscent of the Haval concept R (more on this later) and that should logically give birth to a most welcome T600 Sport a la Haval H6 Sport.

Zotye E200Zotye E200: one of the better-looking Chinese microEVs around.

Sadly, with all this activity, it would seem Zotye lost all the spontaneity that made them so likeable last year. The stand is big, yes, but also impersonal and cold, the sales people were polite but mute, and Zotye was one of only two Chinese manufacturers that had two storeys in their stand, but the stares of the sales people there and the E200 closed to media quickly made you understand you were not wanted up there. Last but not least: the Damai X5 SUV’s naming is messing up with my brain (why not T500?) and it has a different logo on its grille! Nooooo! Little Zotye has grown into a spoiled kid. Disappointing.

42. JMC Yusheng S330 concept 2JMC Yusheng S330 concept

43. JMC Yuhu wheelJMC Yuhu concept

44. JMC Yuhu backJMC Yuhu concept

16. (22) JMC

If Beijing had a lot of extravagant concept cars, notably from local manufacturer BAIC, Shanghai is painfully lacking in any extravaganza, the absence of starlets sexying up the cars not helping at all either. Until you step onto the JMC stand. Nothing to declare on the ‘normal’ range exhibited: the S350 is still ok-looking and robust, but my oh my what concept cars have you got for us this year JMC! Outstanding, outlandish and outrageous: the Yuhu pickup (love the name – imagine launching that and calling it Yoohoo) and Yusheng S330 SUV look like two baby pitbulls eagerly waiting for their master’s “Go fetch!” signal, tongues out, before they jump into the water. I don’t normally get that excited about concept cars but there, I just did for these two. Fun.

51. Lifan X70Lifan X70

15. (21) Lifan

Lifan, kicking goals in some export markets like Brazil and Russia, is very discreet at home, with no model ranking inside the Top 100 over the First Quarter 2015. Their flagship, the 820 sedan presented in Beijing, took one full year to launch and the carmaker still produces some of the cheapest-looking and -feeling interiors in the whole of China. Yes but. Lifan’s two best-selling models so far in 2015 are both SUVs: the X60 is up 32% to #105 despite its age, and the X50 is already #148 even though it only launched a few months ago. Lifan understands that the key to its sales stepping up to the next level is an increased presence in the booming SUV segment, and it hasn’t wasted any time in putting this plan into action.

53. Lifan X40Lifan X40

In Shanghai, Lifan’s SUV lineup instantly doubled in size, with the imposing X70 now topping the range and the pocket-sized X40 destined to undercut the Haval H1 in price. The exterior design is in very frank progress with these two SUVs, the naming conventions are respected and logical and the staff was clearly delighted to see me take pictures of their cars, making sure I had full access to them. There’s still a long way to go but you are doing it right Lifan, by putting all your energy in the one direction that matters right now in China: S.U.V.

45. Roewe 950Roewe 950

14. (19) Roewe

As the more premium brand in the Shanghai-based SAIC Group, Roewe was given the largest stand of any Chinese manufacturer at the Show. No expenses were spared, with a stadium-like terrace for the public to sit, recharge their phone and get a bird’s view on this exhibition hall completely dedicated to SAIC and its joint-ventures with General Motors and Volkswagen. The separation with the other domestic brands in the SAIC stable, Maxus and MG, was clear, the focus on new energy vehicles was on-trend, notably with a cool matte blue 550 plug-in hybrid and a 950 fuel cell. Then the 950 impressed me with a very mature yet dynamic and stylish design. But it all lacked a bit of spark.

46. Roewe 950 interiorRoewe 950 interior

47. Roewe 350 interiorRoewe 350 interior

By aspiring to be premium, Roewe is dangerously verging into the pompous area, which would be kind of acceptable if they actually were premium. But they are not there yet, and by far: the product delivery, once you step inside, is very uneven. The impressive 950 and 550 are totally let down by a very bland, very flimsy and very cheap 350. I can see what you’re doing there Roewe and I’m liking some of it but the word I’m looking for is consistency. Plus I will blame you for the most incomprehensible hierarchy of truck brands I have even seen – over in the commercial vehicle area.

48. SAIC Naveco Chaoyue C300bThe plaque said this is a SAIC-Naveco Chaoyue C300. Right.

64. Maxus standMaxus: from hole in the wall in Beijing to this.

13. (15) Maxus

Cleverly positioned in-between Roewe and MG on the SAIC stand so as the two passenger car brands don’t ‘touch’ each other, Maxus impressed me once again with a stand 4 times bigger than in Beijing, a very classy and sophisticated interior for the G10 added to both a zero emission EV variant and a premium edition complete with a water boiler for sipping green tea on the move, showing that Maxus is moving at the right speed.

66. Maxus M80 Australia detailDo 50 units per month qualify as hot?

65. Maxus M80 School BusMaxus M80 School bus

But the main reason Maxus ranks higher than both its SAIC counterparts Roewe and MG is because of one of its sales people, Blade, who had the right answer to every question I asked – which is no mean feat. A sticker proclaiming ‘hot sale in Australia’ on one of the Maxus M80 got my attention. As soon as I snapped it, Blade was happy to detail the M80 is sold under the LDV brand there and when he learnt I lived in Australia it was like I made his day. He knew exactly how many M80 sold each month in Oz in the past year, was up-to-scratch about all its competitors in the market and announced the G10 would be launched there in mid-year. Good work!

55. GAC Trumpchi GA8GAC Trumpchi GA8

12. (3) GAC

Don’t be alarmed by this fall from GAC compared to last year, just a proof that all Chinese manufacturers have improved greatly year-on-year, and GAC has confused me a little in Shanghai. This is one of the most ambitious Chinese manufacturers around, announcing at Auto Shanghai their plan to launch the all-new GS4 SUV (introduced here) in the US by 2017, plus they arguably currently produce the best Chinese car designs. Their GA8 new flagship hits all the marks with interior quality in the Top 3 Chinese with the Geely GC9 and Roewe 950, the GA6 has some of the comfiest seats for a Chinese model, compensating a hollow closing door sound, and with the GA5 Range extended EV GAC ticks the new energy box as well.

56.GAC Trumpchi GA8 interior 2

57. GAC Trumpchi GA8 interiorGAC Trumpchi GA8 interior

59. GAC Trumpchi logoTrumpchi: brand or sub-brand?

59. GAC Gonow GP150GAC Gonow GP150

But this only applies to the Trumpchi (sub?)brand. Clearly GAC is trying to isolate Trumpchi from the rest of its lineup with a big Trumpchi sign on the back wall of their stand and Trumpchi big letters on the back of their SUVs. But is it a brand yet? All Trumpchi models still have a G logo for GAC, who confused us even more by displaying some of the models they produce through their joint-venture with foreign carmakers: the GAC-Honda Vezel, Odyssey, Accord and GAC-Fiat Ottimo were all on the GAC stand, along with a rather good-looking all-new GAC Gonow GP150 pick-up. A clear brand strategy would place GAC much higher in this ranking.

70. Dongfeng L60Dongfeng L60

11. (5) Dongfeng

Within a Dongfeng passenger car stand rather austere, the new L60 sedan stands out with a clear improvement in interior quality notably the seats, and with a nice touch indicating the connection with Peugeot: a small French flag on the seats. The Number 1 concept is now the brand’s flagship and the good news is its impressive design has been untouched compared to the model presented at Beijing last year. Plus, Dongfeng ticks the new energy box with a cute-looking E30L, and having a UN Humvee on your stand is always a welcome diversion.

68. Dongfeng TrucksDongfeng Truck. Notice the slogan on the floor.

This passable mix doesn’t deserve a No. 11 ranking I hear you say, and you would be correct. Dongfeng earns this ranking by delivering a consistently robust performance across all its numerous stands disseminated throughout the Show. The Trucks stand has the most respectful staff of any stand in that hall, holding my bags while I climb on the truck, and would you believe they have a little salon with stools, coffee tables and a TV playing a classical music concert! Talk about confidence.

67. Dongfeng DFSK K01The Dongfeng K01 is ‘leader of China’s exported mini trucks at 200,000 sales’.

The DFSK light commercial vehicle stand has a different vibe altogether but very much in sync with the brand in that category: helpful, practical and very friendly. And the staff are savvy: they could tell the price of each model in US$ instantly. As a car sales nerd I particularly liked the ‘most exported mini truck’ sticker: I learnt something today. All-in-all, Dongfeng seemed to be in control of its brand image in all the different categories of vehicles they are involved in and ready for the next stage of their development, which I can’t wait to witness.

73. Dongfeng Humvee73. Dongfeng Humvee interiorSome Dongfeng fun

Auto Shanghai 2015: The most impressive Chinese carmakers (1/5)

1. Kawei K10Kawei is bringing a bit of Beijing spontaneity to Shanghai.

The moment you have all been waiting for has finally arrived. Now an annual tradition at BSCB, I give you the ranking of the Chinese carmakers that impressed me the most at Auto Shanghai 2015. If last year in Beijing this ranking was somewhat ‘pure’ as I had little expectations from any carmakers and was stepping in all Chinese cars for the first time, this year is a little different as I come armed with what I saw in Beijing.

Auto Shanghai being roughly 4 to 5 times larger than Beijing, now including light, medium and heavy trucks, this ranking is a lot more detailed, with a lot more explanation as to why I ranked each brand that way. Everything comes into consideration: from the interior/exterior quality and design of the models exposed, the number/validity of new cars, concept cars, staff availability, savviness and friendliness as well as whether or not they improved since last year. Once again we are going up the ladder from last to first in pure, old-fashioned hit parade tradition. In brackets is the brand’s ranking last year at the Beijing Auto Show.

Wuling Hongguang V China March 2015. Picture courtesy xcar.com.cnNot showing any cars at Auto Shanghai: China’s domestic best-seller Wuling

Not ranked: ZX Auto / Lianhua (23) / Wuling (11)

This was a surprise, ZX Auto producing the legendary Tiger pick-up truck very popular in the Chinese countryside (and notably in Xinjiang Uyghur), was expected to be here. Either they were and I didn’t see them meaning they didn’t market themselves well, or they weren’t and it worries me as they just launched the GX3 SUV onto the Chinese market. Lianhua (aka Youngman Lotus) wasn’t present either. As to Wuling, the brand was present at the Show in the same stand as Baojun but whereas in Beijing they showed the Hongguang S this year they didn’t bother showing any model, not even the all-new Hongguang V whose sales are rocketing up already. For the best-selling Chinese brand at home (1.4 million units in 2014), it’s a little awkward.

4. Denza presentation 21,2,3…and you’re asleep.

35. (27) Denza

Already not among my favourites last year in Beijing, the EV brand Denza (a BYD-Daimler joint-venture) is sinking down to the lowest level in my ranking because there was absolutely nothing exciting about its delivery at Auto Shanghai. I’ve already covered the fact that its unique model is plain ugly, but its stand was bland and its press conference was someone reading through a very 1985-looking Powerpoint presentation that reminded me of when I started using this application a loooong time ago. Denza also made the mistake of translating the ppt into English…

Now we all know Denza is boasting the original price of 369.000 yuan (US$59.600) is reduced to a mere 275.000 (US$44.400) with government subsidies. That’s the price of the base Audi A4L here, so make your choice ladies and gentlemen, and that Denza received “positive feedback” from the market. That, in Denza speak, means selling a mere 267 units since launch. Granted, Denza’s very existence is solely due to the government ordering manufacturers to produce EVs but they are showing me they are not even trying to do it well and are completely out of touch with the market, keeping in mind absolutely all mass Chinese brands had more than just a token EV on their stand this year. No thanks.

5. ChangHe A6

6. ChangHe A6 interiorChanghe A6 and interior

34. (-) Changhe

Changhe didn’t appear in my ranking last year because their only model was lost in a sea of other brands, but this time they won’t escape my wrath. The US$10.900 A6 is a revamped Suzuki Liana that should feature the ChangHe Suzuki logo but has the Changhe logo instead. First mistake. The exterior design is all that can be expected from trying to make a 2001 Liana look presentable and current, and the interior looks, feels and smells cheap, much cheaper than a $US7.000 FAW. Don’t exhibit the Changhe brand next time, ChangAn. It’s actually surprising they did so as ChangAn had no qualms ditching all of its Chana commercial vehicles from its Chana stand. I’d say do the same with Changhe as showing the A6 is actually hurting the brand.

7. BAIC Senova X55BAIC Senova X55

33. (6) BAIC

Yes, the almighty BAIC Group is freefalling down my ranking. First let’s acknowledge that BAIC, based in Beijing, is not on its home turf here, and that their performance at the Beijing Auto Show last year was potentially boosted by the fact they were at home. But here’s the thing: if you are not strong in Shanghai, shouldn’t you work twice as hard to make a good impression here? BAIC didn’t think so. All models bar a couple are plain and boring white and austere. I got to sit inside the hot-selling Huansu S3 and was bitterly disappointed by how cheap everything feels and looks.

8. BAW BJ20

9. BAW BJ20 interior

10. BAW BJ20 backBAW BJ20

The only fun car in the BAIC stand was the BAW BJ20 but although all doors were unlocked a nervous sales person rushed to tell me I can’t get inside. Too late! Hint: if you don’t want media to get inside your car and take pictures (of an actually pretty cool interior), lock the said car… BAIC earns bonus points for riding the SUV wave and introducing the Senova X55 but this is in fact a Huansu S3 redesigned in a rush that has the potential to harm the Senova “brand” – of which the Senova D80 looked pretty decent but was locked.

11. BAIC sloganPlease change your slogan BAIC…

On this. A pet hate of mine is how some Chinese carmakers are mishandling their brands and sub-brands. Not many got it right and they get rewarded greatly for doing so in this ranking. BAIC is getting it very wrong. Are Weiwang, Senova and Huansu sub-brands or brands? It’s not clear looking at the BAIC stand. They all have different logos, with the Senova sub-brand using the BAIC logo. Or is it the Senova logo? Then BAW who sells Jeeps doesn’t actually have a proper logo. Worse: none of these brands were mentioned anywhere on the stands and all models were huddled together with no logic. And please can someone tell BAIC that their slogan “Your wish – Our ways” is just not right and sounds a tad too assertive to me. Sort yourselves out BAIC!

12. FAW A-ClassFAW A-Class

32. (13) FAW

Another carmaker falling down my ranking and another carmaker that thinks shining outside of its home turf Beijing is too hard. Last year I was impressed by how good the cheaper end of the FAW lineup was looking. So I came with high expectations and was disappointed. The naming of the models is getting more and more confusing: the only new car I could see was the “A-Class” looking ok from the outside but a little bland inside. In the commercial vehicle exhibition hall, the FAW Trucks stand was equally underwhelming, even though they are the Chinese truck maker with the longest experience – they are not called First Automotive Works for nothing. The Light Commercial Vehicle stand was really the most basic display I saw at the Show, with no real effort to spruce up some very ordinary models. What of the Besturn sub-brand, so successful at home in Changchun? The hot-selling X80 SUV is a mix of good and bad: some good exterior design ideas but the interior is cheap and the doors feel light and flimsy. I can’t wait to see FAW in a good mood in Beijing next year…

14. Hawtai Shengdafei interior 3Hawtai Shengdafei interior

31. (30) Hawtai

Last year in Beijing I said Hawtai was the most deceptive Chinese brand because of unbelievably fragile interiors lurking behind some pretty good design and sleek promotion material. I also said that with up-to-scratch interior Hawtai could climb inside my Top 20. Well nothing has changed at Hawtai, except the much larger stand. The Shengdafei only went on sale a couple of months ago and I had a split second of horror when I stepped into it as I thought I actually had broken the door handle when opening it. Not a very good first impression to give your customers, to say the least. Only good point: the Shengdafei’s seats are well finished and comfortable.

15. Howo TruckHowo truck

30. (-) Howo

The presence of heavy commercial vehicles in an entire exhibition hall of their own at Auto Shanghai means I have a more layered view on some manufacturers also operating in this segment, but there are also new brands in the ranking. Howo belongs to Sinotruk, and showed a robust show delivery with all trucks available to check out, and an effort made on the truck colours (yes, I noticed). On the negative side, the staff was inexistent or when they actually stood next to me, looked at me a little warily. On the plus side, Sinotruck didn’t lose themselves too much (still a bit) with different brands and sub-brands. Howo is clearly their flagship brand and I could see that on the stand. Others, more discreet, include CDW, CNHTC and Sitrak. Looking good Howo.

16. Higer logoHiger Longwei grille

29. (-) Higer

Originally a van/bus specialist now dabbling in pickups and light commercial vehicles, Higer is another newcomer in my ranking. “Higer takes you higher!” has an exhaustive brochure that taught me about their entire lineup in a matter of seconds, and I am grateful for the education as I always thrive to know more about the Chinese automotive industry. However looking more closely, the delivery starts to fall apart a bit. The entire staff had to be mobilised to give me the price of their newest offering, the Higer Longwei pickup truck, which is a thinly disguised copy of the previous generation Ford F-150 – but not the only one at the Show.

17. Higer Longwei interiorHiger Longwei interior

Even including a wifi router, its interior is from a time long lost and its starting price of 128,800 yuan (US$20,790 – I was quoted 100,000 yuan by the staff) seems a little excessive in the very competitive – and affordable – world of Chinese pickups. The start of the brochure reads so: “After 16 years of difficult exploration and struggling growth, Higer has built a modern bus manufacturing base.” We thank you for your honesty Higer, and we hope you will take us higher next time.

18. Landwind X7No this is not a Range Rover Evoque. I promise.

28. (-) Landwind

Landwind didn’t bother exhibiting in Beijing, but they are well and truly present in Shanghai with a sizeable stand and a new hero: the already notorious X7, an almost identical replica of the Range Rover Evoque, with a pricetag starting at a mere US$19.000 vs. US$72.000 for the real Evoque. And here is the reason why Landwind ranks so low. Up to 5-6 years ago, Chinese manufacturers were all busy unscrupulously copying foreign designs and getting away with it (Chery QQ anyone?). They have since evolved to create their own design, if just a tad ‘inspired’ by foreign carmakers, with Geely for example now using Volvo’s head of design as their own.

19. Landwind X7 interior 20. Landwind X7 seat 21. Landwind X7 exteriorLandwind X7 interior, passenger seat and exterior detail

The X7 makes Landwind the last (?) of its kind in China in the way they are so blatantly copying Land Rover. The worst/best thing is, the interior quality and design is actually rather impressive for the price. Looking closer at the exterior shows some very lazy fittings however. The X7 is a pure exercise of brand value: you could buy 4 top-spec Landwind X7 for the price of one top-spec Range Rover Evoque produced in China. Would you? Putting myself in the shoes of the Chinese youth that want to show off and drive a comfortable car while doing so, the choice is very easy. Clever or nasty? You be the judge.

22. Joylong Hiace Premium interiorJoylong A6 premium interior

27. (-) Joylong

I vaguely knew the existence of this brand that mainly manufactures rebranded Toyota Hiace vans under licence but its presence at Auto Shanghai etched it into my brain, because they exhibited a luxury variant, the A6, complete with a bed at the back that goes for US$51.000. The staff were attentive, knowledgeable and courteous. Discreet brand but nothing bad to say about it. Long live Joylong!

23. Haima M6Haima m6

26. (4) Haima

The third freefall in my ranking is a brand clearly outside its comfort zone in Shanghai. Although a subsidiary of FAW, Haima is based in Hainan in the South of the country, so georgraphically speaking shouldn’t give priority to Beijing over Shanghai, rather the contrary. Still, it feels like Haima has stayed static in the past year. Yes there is a new model exhibited, the m6, but it is all but impressive even with the help of a bright yellow race car variant next to it. The Haima S5 unveiled in Beijing last year has become in the space of a few months the brand’s best-seller (#97 so far in 2015) so I was expecting at least one addition to the SUV family, but it wasn’t meant to be, and it’s not a Turbo variant of the m8 that will revive its comatose sales (just 235 units so far in 2015). It would appear Haima is having a hard time cutting the umbilical cord with Mazda.

24. Brilliance V3Brilliance V3

25. Brilliance V3 interiorBrilliance V3 interior

25. (24) Brilliance

Brilliance launched a new brand for Auto Shanghai (more on this later), bringing the number of its brands to 3 and they were all very well separated and clearly indicated on the stand. Bonus points for that. As for the namesake brand, interior design and quality still hasn’t come to the dance, with all models feeling plastic, harsh and hollow. However Brilliance made the right choice for its only newcomer at the Show: the small SUV V3 is pretty good-looking from the front, butt-ugly from the back, but is a critical addition to Brilliance’s lineup, one that will allow the brand to play in the hottest segment of all. It should give a welcome boost to Brilliance’s sales in China: the ageing V5 is the brand’s new best-seller this year with sales up 35% in line with China’s newfound craze for SUVs.

26. Jinbei GraceJinbei Grace

24. (16) Jinbei

A solid delivery for Brilliance’s Jinbei: good demarcation from the namesake brand, the entire lineup exhibited, and a couple of bonus tracks in the form of extravagantly well-furbished motor homes, and interiors a world apart from Brilliance, masking the absence of any real novelty. The commercial vehicle stand showed off something for each pricetag and the English-speaking member of the staff rushed towards me when I looked like I had a question. The stands were much larger than the microscopic portion of the Brilliance stand it held in Beijing, so a good evolution here. Professional, efficient, if a little unexciting, but this is a brand specialised in MPVs after all – and kudos for keeping to what you’re good at and improving at it.

27. Venucia VOW ConceptVenucia VOW Concept

23. (10) Venucia

I was enchanted by Venucia last year, and had I seen their stand for the first time today I would probably be too this year but unfortunately this is now old news. The T70 launched a couple of months ago and was an instant blockbuster as expected, even eclipsing all other models in the Venucia lineup. That leaves Venucia with nothing new to show expect an interesting-looking Vow concept that probably won’t translate into anything tangible, so far away it is from the current lineup. Bonus points for imagination though. What prevents Venucia from falling further down is the the fact that it now behaves as its own brand – completely separate from Nissan in its delivery. And this is a big deal.

28. MG GS 29. MG GS interiorMG GS and interior

22. (20) MG

MG’s point of difference in the Chinese market is its UK brand heritage and it played this card smartly last year at the Beijing Auto Show. This year this heritage is a lot more subdued on the MG stand: apart from an MG 3 hanging out sideways with a UK flag on its roof, there is no reference to this heritage at all. This is a shame because it gave the MG brand a sort of Chinese-English blended flair that all other Chinese carmakers would kill for. The MG GS SUV is the big novelty on the stand and it looks good outside but its interior appeared to me a tad on the childish note. We get it, MG is the ‘young’ brand in the SAIC stable but this is still supposed to be a car, not a toy (right?). Very friendly hostesses were keen to offer me all kinds of brochures I was happy to take. I took one. Really I should apologise, and I do.

30. Kawei logoKawei logo. I like.

21. (-) Kawei

Relegated in Hall 6.2 where it was the only car manufacturer among auto parts makers, Kawei is bringing the enthusiastic and spontaneous spirit of last year’s Beijing Auto Show into Shanghai. Yes the K1 pickup and W1 SUV are blatant copies of the previous generation Ford F-150, their interior is very basic but not the worst I saw at the show, and definitely a lot of metal, torque and carrying ability for its price. From US$15.100 for the K1 you get a 5.56m long pickup truck with engines ranging from 2.4L petrol to 2.8L and 3.2L diesel.

31. Kawei K10 32. Kawei K10 interiorKawei K10 and interior

Interesting: the Hummer logo stuck next to Kawei in al the stand livery. That is not because Kawei has taken over the license for production of the full-size Hummer, however the Chinese manufacturer is in charge of production of the MEV Hummer HX electric golf car (Thanks to our reader Anton for bring this to our knowledge). That would make sense as they had one exhibited on their stand. But this doesn’t lift Kawei to #21. What does is the flicker in the eyes of the staff as they watch walk around their stand, even taking pictures of me taking pictures of their cars. Cute.

Next batch is #20 to #11. Stay tuned…

Auto Shanghai 2015: The highlights

0. Audi still the sweetheartAudi hasn’t lost any of its charm in China.

If in 2014 Beijing brought me back to what Auto Shows should have remained: enthusiastic, exciting and plain and simply fun, Auto Shanghai 2015 is more about business, fending off the competition and graduating to the world stage. Has the Chinese auto industry lost its spontaneity? Perhaps it is because no scantily-clad models were allowed next to the cars this year? It certainly did give Auto Shanghai a more grey-looking, suit-and-tie, professional vibe. But not only.

0. ChangAn drives the worldIt’s a tough world out there…

Allen Huang is Commercial Manager for ChangAn, he graduated less than a year ago from Chongqing where the manufacturer is based. Speaking an almost perfect English and eager to engage in a friendly yet professional manner with the only representant of any foreign media to have ventured onto his stand (me), his face still bears the weight of what I can imagine would be numerous pre-Show briefings explaining that this is his chance to shine or he’ll have to wait two more years. After hearing my positive feedback on the ChangAn CS75 SUV’s interior, he looked into a far, scary horizon saying “competition is very tough”… Don’t get disheartened Allen. Auto Shanghai is by far the most impressive display of potential I have seen from Chinese manufacturers.

BYD TangBYD Tang: a sporty Chinese hybrid SUV for the youth. Couldn’t be more on-trend(s)…

3 trends were clearly at play at Auto Shanghai 2015:

The first one is consumer-driven: China’s new and seemingly insatiable hunger for SUVs, a trend that Chinese carmakers have captured better than anyone else, seeing their SUV sales more than doubled year-on-year over the First Quarter of 2015.

The second one is purely governmental: this year, Chinese law dictates that automakers’ fleets must average less than 7L/100km, down to 5L/100km by 2020. The only way to achieve this is by introducing plug-in hybrid vehicles and almost all manufacturers present at the show had at least one new ‘green’ vehicle to display. Problem: focus too much on plug-in hybrids and you lose track of what really does volume in China. Let’s keep thing into perspective: even though they tripled year-on-year to 26,581 units during Q1 2015, sales of EVs and plug-in hybrids still only represent 0.4% of the overall Chinese market.

The last trend is overarching the entire market: millenials (consumers that started driving from 2000 onwards so born after 1980) are now front and centre of the Chinese market, due to their increasing purchase power. What millenials want, carmakers must provide in China.

If you only have time to read one article, here is what to remember about Auto Shanghai 2015.

1. NECC 1

1. NECCThe stupendously gigantic National Exhibition and Convention Centre. Up: North entrance.

1. Shanghai does big best

Researching about the shining new National Exhibition and Convention Centre located a 45 min-metro ride to the West of Shanghai city centre near Hongqiao Airport, I incredulously read it was ‘the largest building of its kind in the world’. Another exaggerated claim to entice me to attend the Show? Nope. Coming out of the metro station and having to walk just one quarter of the way around the venue in order to get my media accreditation took a good 20 minutes… There were 10 main exhibition halls, 8 on ground level and 2 on level one (meaning 6 remaining halls were left unused) for a total of 1.47 million square meters, 300,000 of which being exhibition floor. Auto Shanghai is the first event held in this new Convention Centre and is at least 3 times larger than any other Auto Show I visited, with the largest ones previously being Frankfurt and Paris. Two full media days starting at 8:30am and finishing at 7pm were just enough to visit all stands. This makes the Beijing Auto Show I visited last year look like two toddlers playing in an inflatable pool.

2. SUVLocal manufacturer Haval dominates the booming SUV market in China.

2. SUV’s Republic of China

In less than a year, SUV has clearly become the segment where fortunes are made in China. Every single sizeable Chinese manufacturer introduced at least one new SUV at the Show, some 2 or 3 including the concepts (Haval and BYD are among them). A very tough rhythm to follow for foreign carmakers… Indeed, as the overall Chinese market’s growth is slowing down to 4% overall so far in 2015, more profitable SUV sales are increasing at lightning speed: up 40% over the First Quarter of 2015. Chinese manufacturers have rushed to reclaim domination in this category, claiming 56% of their home SUV market over the period thanks to sales more than doubling compared to 2014.

This is a big deal as most analysts (including myself I have to admit) thought the market share local manufacturers had progressively lost to foreign carmakers was lost forever. The SUV segment shows that the Chinese, with improved design, microscopic price tags and efficient marketing, can still woo back their home crowd. We should look to the SUV craze to explain many of the big manufacturers fortunes or misfortunes in 2015 so far: If Hyundai (ix25), Kia (KX3) and PSA Peugeot-Citroen (C3-XR) have hit the ground running with China-exclusive offers developed in record times, the Volkswagen (-0.6%) and Toyota (-0.1%) brands have frankly underperformed so far, and this is mainly due to their weakness in the small SUV segment, where the explosive sales growth resides.

3. and EV but Toyota off trendI <3 Hybrid. That won’t get you to 2 million annual sales Toyota…

3. Toyota blinded by its hybrid love

The Japanese manufacturer, #1 in the world but clearly struggling in China with first quarter sales down 0.1%, focused all its energy at the Show on plug-in hybrid variants of its hot-selling Corolla and Levin sedans, also unveiling the Mirai to Chinese audience but without a clear launch date for this market. Plug-in hybrids and EVs are a mandate to be able to achieve the required average 5L/100km by 2020, and introducing plug-in hybrids of its popular compact sedans is the manufacturer’s first step towards that goal, aiming at a 30% share of hybrid in its overall 2020 sales. At the moment only Lexus achieves this within the Toyota Group in China, with the only other nameplate racking up significant hybrid sales being the Camry (5%). Yes but that’s not going to help with a daring mid-term goal of 2 million annual units in China.

Toyota is studying an EV collaboration with its Chinese partners FAW and GAC but openly admits this is purely motivated by government restrictions, as the manufacturer does not focus on EV anywhere else in the world but China. So Toyota is working hard to meet the Chinese government’s 2020 plan. Very well, but where are the SUVs? A round table with Toyota China CEO Hiroshi Onishi and Managing Officer Tetsuo Ogawa didn’t give me any more confidence that Toyota would be reaping the benefits of its worldwide SUV expertise in China any time soon. The #1 SUV manufacturer in the world with legendary models such as the Land Cruiser, Prado, RAV4 and Highlander, has inexplicably been caught by surprise in China. When I asked Testuo Ogawa about any plans to launch a B-segment SUV exclusive to China to compete with the likes of the Hyundai ix25, Kia KX3, Peugeot 2008 or Buick Encore he said “no plans, but it should definitely be considered”. You betcha!

4. Nissan YoungNew NISSAN is Young NISSAN

4. Nissan young at heart

Nissan manages to tick the 3 trends’ boxes in one go by unveiling the all-new Murano hybrid SUV (two ticks) and a compact sedan designed by young Chinese for young Chinese: the Lannia (one tick). Nissan targets 1.3 million sales in 2015 (up from 900,000 in 2014) via 4 new launches including 2 SUVs. China is now completely front and centre in Nissan’s worldwide plans: out of the 5 Nissan plants operating in China, two of them are #1 and #2 Nissan plants worldwide in terms of quality output. Carlos Ghosn has its eyes firmly set on the #1 market in the world despite the slowing down of growth witnessed here: “China is still one of the markets with the highest growth in the world so we’re not disappointed in this. We are investing in China and will continue investing in China.” Can’t be any clearer Mr. Ghosn.

As he introduced the Lannia to the media, Carlos Ghosn described how the new Nissan was targeted at the core of the Chinese market: consumers born in the 80s and 90s, I thought it was a sick joke and he was pretending to be 20 years into the future. But no, fellow humans born in the 70s or earlier, this is 2015 when someone born in 1999 can drive a car legally. We are past our prime already, and manufacturers in China don’t really care what we want anymore. Good to know! But it makes total sense and thumbs up to Nissan for embracing this market shift openly and wholeheartedly.

5. Mercedes on trendGive it to me now. Mercedes GLC Coupé Concept.

5. Mercedes gets it. The only premium German to do so?

March sales of the Mercedes-Benz and Smart brands are up a whopping 21% year-on-year in China to 30,124 units whereas premium leader Audi was up only 1.5% to 48,356 deliveries. Year-to-date, Mercedes is up 17% and Audi is up 7% in a passenger car market up 9%. Mercedes is catching up fast, and it only took one look at their Auto Shanghai stand to be convinced that Audi and BMW should be worried, very worried. Mercedes kicked off media day on Monday with the first press conference of the entire Auto Shanghai, and their stand is a spectacular display of 46 vehicles, a testimony of the manufacturer’s growing confidence in and strong commitment to China. Mercedes is aiming at significantly more than 300,000 units in China in 2015 and Hubertus Troska, member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, Greater China, said “we are confident China will become the biggest market for Mercedes-Benz, perhaps this year, but definitely by next year” as reported by China Daily.

If Audi and BMW succumbed to the government-led plug-in hybrid trend (Q7 e-tron, A6L e-tron and X5 hybrid), Mercedes rightly chose the hot hot SUV segment to bump its chest, and it looked great doing it. Just as the GLA kick started local production and is bound to be an instant blockbuster in the category (judging by the amount of imported GLAs already in Shanghai streets), the all-new GLE Coupé was first shown to a Chinese audience after its introduction at Geneva, and already a pet fave of mine: the GLC Coupé Concept had its World Premiere in Shanghai in a bright yellow robe. I want one today please. China cannot get enough sexy-looking luxury SUVs? Mercedes gets it and gives them. Where are you Audi and BMW?

11. Peugeot ChinesePeugeot CEO Maxime Picat casually delivering its entire speech in fluent Mandarin.

6. Peugeot is Chinese

Despite showing not much new apart from a very enticing 500hp 308 hybrid, Peugeot gets a massive thumb up from me, as it demonstrated in the space of a few minutes that all the marketing fluff about being committed to the Chinese market and wanting to understand the consumer the best it can actually comes down to one thing: the language. With English as my second language and having studied Mandarin Chinese for a bit, I can relate to how hard it is to become fluent at a foreign language, let alone Chinese as there are no Western references to rely on when speaking it, listening to it, reading it or writing it. Peugeot brand CEO Maxime Picat spoke its entire 20 minute-speech in fluent Mandarin. No other foreign manufacturer at the Show came even close. Not only that, but I checked his prompter and there were no English references on it whatsoever. He was reading off Chinese characters and pinyin with tonal marks. Very impressed. Peugeot showed me their first market in the world is China.

7a. US ready Ford on trend lined up launchesAll-new Ford Edge and Taurus

7. US manufacturers ready to pounce

How did US manufacturers fare this year in Shanghai? Better than expected.

Ford, emboldened by the terrific success of the Escort, now its best-seller in China, started the Show all guns blazing, Western-style: it had it entire SUV lineup position at the very front of its stand, and it’s not looking bad: the Ecosport, Kuga, Edge and Explorer are all less than two years old, with the latter two showing their new face for the first time in China. And there was a surprise: an all-new Taurus specific to China now tops up the range above the Mondeo. Very distinct products and laser-sharp target markets for each is a winning recipe that Ford is using for China, and it works.

Ford also symbolises a new trend in China where the largest manufacturers are hoovering up idle capacity from smaller domestic firms. Indeed according to IHS Automotive, domestic manufacturers’ plants stand at around 60% capacity and international joint-ventures at 80-85%. Ford took advantage of this by acquiring a factory from Harbin Hafei Automobile Industry Group that will add 200,000 vehicles per year in capacity when upgrades are finished in 2016, at a much lesser cost than building a factory from scratch. All the more reason for Chinese manufacturers to keep spitting out SUVs in the hope it will bring their capacity figures back up.

7b. Buick dynamicAll-new Buick Verano

In the same direction, General Motors is aiming at hitting a production capacity of 5 million vehicles per year by 2018 and its delivery at Auto Shanghai was also very strong. Buick is mixing tradition with modernity in its displays and introduced the all-new Verano only weeks after unveiling the new Excelle GT and well ahead of its US start. The Verano will slot in-between the Excelle GT and Regal (aka Opel Insignia). Chevrolet also satisfied with an aggressive facelift of its Malibu, here too well ahead of any US unveiling in the same way the new Cruze on sale in China has not much to do with the overseas model anymore, and this since the Beijing Auto Show last year.

7c. Chevrolet alsoAll-new Chevrolet Malibu

One negative note though: Ford Motor’s Lincoln taking itself way too seriously, and whose overzealous assistants barred the entry to the stand to ‘Media only’. Hint: if I am here on a media day, that’s because I am media. Apart from this, Lincoln is making tremendous progress in China only one year after announcing its launch there. Lincoln unveiled 3 all-new models (MKX, new Navigator and Continental Concept standing for a vision of a full-sized sedan) added to the MKC and MKZ. Currently at 11 stores nationwide, Lincoln is opening 14 more this year (I saw one in construction in Pudong) with the objective to reach 60 dealers in 50 cities by 2016. But are they selling? Given all Lincoln models are imported they don’t appear in BSCB’s monthly rankings. Well, it looks like they are. According to the automaker, 3 of its Top 10 dealers globally by sales are now in China! Lincoln China’s President Robert Parker says “the interest of consumers in our current products has exceeded expectations”. To be continued…

8. Volkswagen still the king of Chinese heartsLining up for Volkswagen brochures… Yessir.

8. Volkswagen still the people’s car

Volkswagen is still and by far the favourite in China’s heart. Proof: media were happy to wait in a long line just to get the manufacturer’s brochures! I actually don’t think I ever saw such a thing at any Auto Show before… Volkswagen models were displayed at two large separate locations at the Show: within the enormous SAIC Motor exhibition hall for the Shanghai-Volkswagen joint-venture and one very large stand where both the FAW-VW and Shanghai-VW joint-ventures’ cars were on display. Yes Volkswagen is losing market share with deliveries for its namesake VW brand down 0.6% in the first quarter, but that’s mainly because they don’t have a compact SUV and it remains the top selling brand in China by a country mile. Just after the start of the Show, Volkswagen actually announced they were mulling budget SUVs in partnership with Haval… Now that’s a good idea.

8. Volkswagen plunges into hatchbacksVW Gran Santana

So no SUV and a plug-in hybrid expertise already shown off, what did Volkswagen have for us to bite on? A very interesting move in my view: the brand is definitely taking the hatchback plunge. Building on the success of the Gran Lavida (10,000+ monthly sales since launch), the German manufacturer unveiled the Gran Santana – still under the Shanghai-VW joint-venture. To make things more confusing the Gran Santana and the Santata don’t have the same front. Sneaky.

9. Hyundai on trendAll-new Hyundai Tucson

9. Hyundai-Kia solid as ever

It’s always very refreshing to observe the Hyundai and Kia brands evolving in China. Why? Because being only a decade old in the country, none ever had to shed the poor quality perception that plagued them in other areas in the world during the nineties. As a result, China is a market where these two brands don’t have any inferiority complex and behave as premium brands would, with a slightly younger vibe for Kia, who was showing off it extremely well finished KX3 small SUV and a facelifted Sportage. Hyundai for its part had the new Tucson on centre stage, including a hybrid variant as well as the new Sonata. A very solid delivery from both Korean brands, once again. They never disappoint those two.

9. Kia strong KX3Kia KX3 and All-new Sportage

10. Renault van den AckerRenault’s van den Acker talking about Life.

10. Renault lands: cool or not cool?

It’s official: 2016 is the year Renault will (finally) start manufacturing in China through its joint-venture with Dongfeng, which interestingly enough is also associated with Peugeot and Citroen. By the time the next Shanghai Auto Show comes along in 2017, Renault will have already had one full year of local production of its all-new Kadjar SUV under the belt. So you would think Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn should give a warm welcome to the Chinese media at Auto Shanghai. Nope. This honour was given to Senior Vice President of Renault Corporate Design since 2009 Laurens van den Acker. So instead of showing how well Renault understands the Chinese market, who exactly they are targeting and how good a job they are planning to do to woo Chinese millenials over to what is essentially a mostly unknown brand in this country, we got a mismatch of wanky design-talk telling us all Renaults were designed with Life at the core of them (doh!) that went over the head of the entire audience, Chinese and French included. Really what we wanted to know was what on earth motivated you to wear those ugly red sneakers with your suit. As a Frenchman I am insulted. Being a designer is not an excuse!

10. Renault lands. cool or cheapRenault’s (lack of) seats: cool or cheap?

Also, replicating the concept that has earned them praise in various Auto Shows, Renault brought the moving colour-changing globes to their stand, but made the fatal mistake of peppering the media floor with more globes where some had the luck (?) to uncomfortably sit whereas the majority of the audience was standing. Renault: I’m French so I have a lot of time for you, but you took us for fools in Paris last year, and you are treating the Chinese media with contempt under the guise of trying to be cool. I’m still not impressed. To end on a positive note, at least Renault understands it’s futile to venture too far from SUV land: its current best-seller in China is the Koleos, the Captur will be imported “in the coming months” said van den Acker and the Kadjar will be the first Renault vehicle to be produced in China. To my chagrin there are still no plans to launch the Duster which would be a hugely profitable vehicle for Renault in China. Perhaps not to share too much of the low-cost knowhow with partner Dongfeng?

6. Honda on trendThe Honda Concept D could (should) be the next Crosstour.

11. Honda has its eyes on the SUV prize

While Toyota is getting caught in the plug-in hybrid net and Nissan ticks all boxes with the Murano hybrid and the China-specific Lannia, the third best-selling Japanese manufacturer in China, Honda, is hungry and it shows. Riding the compact SUV wave were the Vezel / XR-V (one for each joint-venture) in their throne right in the middle of the Honda stand, monopolising the brand’s giant LCV screen at the back and supported by an aggressive marketing campaign in the metro on the way to the Show and all through the venue. Good to keep the momentum: combined sales of the small SUV in February (12,019) and March (17,726) made it the brand’s best-seller. No less. But what tickled my fancy on the Honda stand is the very aggressively-designed Concept D, pre-empting another future SUV the brand will launch shortly. To me, it looks like a muscled version of next generation Crosstour, which although living its last months in the US, is alive and kicking in China.

12. Qoros standFinally.

12. The Qoros stand is where the party’s at

I disagree with the product and it seems like Chinese audiences (only 6,967 sales in 2014 vs. an announced production capacity of 150,000) as well as European ones (39 deliveries in Slovakia in the whole of 2014) agree with me. But you have to give it to Qoros: they know how to stage an attractive stand. You could barely find a way through the Qoros stand during the entire first media day so crowded it was: a press conference handled in a very different, debate-style way, complimentary coffee, confortable bar stools and free finger food. That’s why we come to Auto Shows, right? No. But yes. But no.

13. W MotorsW Motors Lykan

13. W Motors bursts onto the scene at 400km/h

No Chinese Auto Show would be complete without the launch of a new exotic supercar brand, preferably coming from some mind-blowingly wealthy Middle-Eastern owners. Here comes the W Motors Lykan, of which only 7 units will be produced worldwide. And the Chinese are lapping up the exclusive stand, aggressive silhouette and petrol dollar-inflated performances: W Motors claims 0-100km/h in 2.8sec, 0-200km/h in 9.4sec and a maximum speed of just under 400km/h…

14. Who is G. PattonWhat the line below says.

14. Who the heck is G. Patton?

We have Dartz from Latvia, now introducing a brand I hadn’t heard of before called G. Patton, seemingly offering armored army-looking souped-up Ford F-150-based extravagant SUVs. The name I’m guessing stands for famous US Army General George Patton. All G. Patton’s documentation is in Chinese including their website g-patton.com, so bear with us as we try and find more information about this vehicle I want in my garage already…

15. BYD Press conferenceBYD Press Conference. Busy.

15. But after all is said and done, it’s all about the Chinese.

Now that you are privy to the highlights of Auto Shanghai 2015 like you actually attended the show, it’s time to get to business. Real business. We are in China, in an international Auto Show that is in fact mainly attended to by the Chinese press, even on media days. 90 to 95% of all attendees during these two days were Chinese journalists and automotive professionals. The press conferences were rarely translated into English, and were duly attended to by a myriad of local media. I even got interviewed by CCTV, the No.1 Chinese TV channel, on whether I thought Chinese carmakers were catching up to their foreign counterparts (I do)…

15. Chinese up 2Geely Emgrand EC9

You know it, the only reason why I am here at Auto Shanghai is not so much to check how Volkswagen, GM, Ford or Toyota are wooing the Chinese consumer, but to evaluate the progress of the numerous Chinese carmakers present at the show. Last year in Beijing I wrote about the 30 most impressive Chinese carmakers, and this year I will establish this ranking once again. One thing is certain: the Chinese have improved, and they did so very fast. Reading what impressed me in the Top 5 carmakers last year was like reading a report from 10 years ago. None of the Top 5 from 2014 would have made it into the Top 10 this year. Get ready for a new ranking and some feathers ruffled…

15. Chinese upA very cool surprise from our friends at Hongqi. More on this one shortly