Beijing Auto Show 2018: The 15 steady Chinese carmakers
Aiways RG – or is it the Roland Gumpert Nathalie? Confused.
After describing the Top 5 foreigners that made themselves noticed at the Beijing Auto Show, we get right into our traditional detailed coverage of the best performing Chinese carmakers at the Show. This post lists the 15 local manufacturers that held strong – all had at least one new model to present, which is more than what most foreign carmakers offered us – but there were some negative elements that counterbalanced their report sheet. This post is for the fans of the Chinese car market (like me) that want to stay up-to-the-minute on every development. If you only want to know the headlines, you may want to save your energy for the Top 15 most impressive Chinese carmakers coming shortly. This brings our coverage to 30 main Chinese manufacturers – far from the 150 currently active, but not all of them were present at the Show. For ease of reading we will go through this section alphabetically. There is a lot more info on each of these manufacturers in our Exclusive Chinese Brands Guide.
Aiways RG / Roland Gumpert Nathalie plug-in detailAiways SUV Concept
New electric carmaker Aiways did not disappoint with the new RG sportscar: it is shaping up to be all we ever wanted from an electric performance car and more, at least design-wise. But, and there’s a but, as soon as it is born to the world this car already suffers from schizophrenia: it has no Aiways branding on it, instead a Roland Gumpert logo on its bonnet and the section of the carmaker’s stand where it was exhibited had four imposing “Roland Gumpert” flags flying high. Plus the license plate of the car said “Nathalie”. We thought the car was called RG for Roland Gumpert, the Chief Product Manager of the brand, but now it looks like some trouble is on the cards and that this man doesn’t want his car to be called Aiways RG after all, rather the Roland Gumpert Nathalie. Confusing. A better bet for the brand at this stage is the SUV concept that did have all the Aiways branding signals we’d expect.
BAIC Offspace D70 and Senova X55
At home at the Beijing Auto Show, BAIC surprisingly did not show off like SAIC does at the Shanghai Auto Show or GAC at the Guangzhou Auto Show. Granted, it displayed a new generation Senova X55 crossover and we’re assuming that the Offspace D70 concept prefigures the next generation Senova D70 concept, but that’s about all it had for its name this year. Don’t get me wrong, this is more news than what the majority of foreign carmakers were able to produce but we’ve come to expect more, a lot more from the Chinese, especially when at home.
Why so cheesy?Pushing it a little here, Brilliance. A lot, in fact.
Only a few meagre months after the world premiere of the V6 crossover at the Guangzhou Auto Show last November, Brilliance was on point with yet another, larger, crossover, the V7 which isn’t a bigger variant of the V6 but an all-new model. This is impressive, even though the brand’s flagging sales need all the help they can get. Two cracks to this beautiful picture: Brilliance is taking the piss on its engine that features the line “Supported by BMW Group Technology” – a meaningless sentence, only to say that Brilliance and BMW are engaged in a joint-venture to locally produce vehicles, – in a way that only shows the word BMW (see picture). Lame, and worse: it might just work in the Chinese market. Secondly, their public song and dance was cheesy and cheap, cancelling the prestige the brand could have gained from clamouring its association with BMW.
With clockwork regularity, Chery has been presenting one new SUV at every major Chinese Show in the past few years. This time is the Tiggo 8, a much-needed 7-seat SUV that now acts as the flagship of the brand’s lineup. The design has matured and is now distinctive and among the best Chinese, in and out, but the materials and the overuse of shiny smooth black surfaces on the dashboard mean it does not quire hit the mark.
Ever generous, Dongfeng had two new SUVs on its stand this year: the Fengxing T5 (why oh why can’t you stick with one naming system?) which seems like it is another variation on the Fengxing/Joyear X5 launched last year, and the much more interesting coupe-like Fengguang ix5 – again, where is this naming system coming from? – a very uncharacteristic format for what is in essence the low-cost sub brand of Dongfeng. A solid performance, if a little illogical, but nothing truly outstanding – notwithstanding a sportscar concept that didn’t premiere at the show and looks so far from reality it’s not worth mentioning.
One of two Honda low-cost brands along with Ci Ming, we thought Everus was dead and buried and for this reason we didn’t bother including it in our Exclusive Chinese Brands Guide. However, it would appear the brand is raising from its ashes like the phoenix, now – quite logically, as it turns out – transformed into an electric marque. This EV Concept is nothing out of the ordinary but it proudly featured on the main stage of the Honda stand (not hidden on the side like most foreign brands’ electric offerings). A much brighter future now seems to await the brand. Time to update our Brands Guide…
Is it Bestern (grille) or Besturn? Junpai becomes Jumpal A fine looking FAW Senia R7C
But is Senia now a brand?And why does the Senia R9 banner sport Besturn branding?
The First Auto Works stand was its usual mess of sub-brands all fighting for attention, yet this year it seemed the distinction between brand and sub-brand is one that FAW has now decidedly given up trying to explain for good. The big news is the Senia R9, a crossover aiming right at the core of the booming end of the Chinese market, yet it sported a Senia logo on its grille and steering wheel. Should we graduate Senia to full-blown brand? But it had the Besturn branding on its banner? What of Jumpal? (we thought it was Junpai) And is it Bestern or Besturn? Both names featured on and near the spectacular SUV concept exhibited on the stand. So many questions…
Lately GAC Trumpchi seems like Midas, transfmoring into gold every single new launch: GS4, GS8, GS3, GM8… Were the brand starting to pant a little and had nothing new to show in Beijing, it would have been more than understandable. That was underestimating GAC. Hoping to build on the success of the GM8 and doubling-down on their pastiche of their targets the Buick GL8 and GL6, a sharp-looking GM6 made its appearance on the marque’s stand. Its interior was blacked out and the doors closed, so it may be a while before we see it point its bonnet in the Chinese sales charts (and that’s the negative aspect of this review) but bonus points for keeping the flow of novelties steady and attractive.
Geely Concept Icon and Emgrand GE interior
That the best-selling Chinese brand at home doesn’t show in the Top 15 most impressive local carmakers in Beijing is in itself a testament of how dynamic the local car industry continues to be. The reason behind this “downgrading”: the only new model on the – posh, stylish yet approachable – stand was the Emgrand GE, a PHEV variant of the brand’s flagship sedan, the Borue. It features an impressive touch screen seemingly running the entire length of the dashboard, although this is an optical illusion as there is in fact one large screen and some graphics on the right. The glass pan does look the part though. With the Icon Concept SUV, Geely also previewed a new design direction for the brand, but it kind of looked like a hastily masked Citroen C3 Aircross. Fear not, we’ll see further in our China Reports for 2018, Geely had one mighty terrific surprise in store for us… To be followed.
Just when we thought Hanteng was a two-hit wonder (the X5 and X7 SUVs), here comes two new models: a small electric crossover and an MPV. There was something rushed and a tad bland about these two models whose doors couldn’t open. We want to see them in market fast, and it doesn’t look like it will be the case. But Hanteng has surprised us before with facelifts of their two first SUVs appearing only a year after introduction. Let’s wait and see.
Hybrid Kinetic stand
Hybrid Kinetic K350 interiorHybrid Kinetic H500 detail
Hybrid Kinetic is a new energy marque based in Hong Kong launched last year at the Geneva Auto Show. After the H600 sedan from the 2017 Geneva Auto Show and the K550 (five seats) and K750 (seven seat) SUVs from the 2017 Shanghai Auto Show, here come two additional concepts in Beijing: the H500 four seat sedan and K350 four seat SUV at the Beijing Auto Show in April 2018. All very generous and adequately sharply-designed but these are just concept, not saleable cars. Plus the extravagant interiors are likely to be toned down drastically by the time these models come into production. Which is when exactly? Too much dreaming, time to get down to business HK, as we’ll see in our Top 15, there are quite a few new electric Chinese carmakers that are already making a splash with sales-ready models.
This small electric carmaker chose to discard all its – very average-looking – small SUVs and LCVs from its main stand floor (they were instead relegated on a second stand outside of the main buildings under the sun. Instead, it showed us a starlet (a dying manipulation trick) and a TV Series-ready sportscar concept complete with digital “talking” grille. Very impressive, very innovative and very in-the-now, but for now what we really want is better looking cars that are ready to be bought.
The MG stand was closed-off during the first public day and a long queue was patiently waiting their turn to touch with the eye all the red models composing a stand that was decidedly sporty. The piece-de-resistance: the X-Motion SUV concept with LED grille and contours that we want to stay that way when it goes on sale (I doubt it). Perhaps one of the most impressive Chinese car concepts this year, but it’s only a concept: we want new cars MG. Sister brand Roewe did offer us a novelty in the shape of the large RX8 SUV, but its interior just fell short off the best Chinese around.
It was the first time I saw Singulato in any Chinese Show, and it did look like a brand that had already been established for a few years: very mature, serious and professional. Where is the spark, the excitement of being one of the Chinese Tesla-eaters? There wasn’t much. In their commitment to become credible fast (they are), Singulato seems to have forgotten to have fun. The interior of their is6 was off-limits, but we love the suicide doors that will remain in the production-ready car.
SWM played its Italian origins to the fullest this year with a themed stand complete with a bar and giant screens showing best-of action of the Inter Milan, the soccer team the marque is sponsoring. There were two new models: the G01 “standard” and a very angular, sporty-looking variant. All looking great, but the stand was removed from the main exhibition halls and located outside the ticket-only area. Masterstroke enabling the brand to be seen by the most or fail that disqualified it from playing with the rest of the teams? I’d tend to vote the latter.
Stay tuned for our coverage of the Top 15 most impressive Chinese carmakers at the 2019 Beijing Auto Show, coming shortly.