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Explore China 2019: The cars of Shanghai

Shanghai street scene.

Like every year, after reporting on the main Chinese Auto Show (this year in Shanghai), we now embark on an exploration of the car landscapes of various regions in the country. This year we returned to Shanghai for the first time since 2015. You can consult our 2015 exploration of the cars of Shanghai here.

Shanghai is the first stop in our 2019 China exploration.

Given the stringent limitations on new license plates in the city, I was expecting the Shanghai car landscape to be relatively static over time, similarly to that of Beijing. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The VW Touran has become the ubiquitous taxi in Shanghai.

Immediately noticeable at my arrival at the Shanghai Hongqiao airport, the armada of previous gen VW Santana taxis I observed four years ago has since been swiftly replaced by a similar herd of VW Touran, by far the most ubiquitous taxi in Shanghai.

The Roewe ei6 is the most common private car in Shanghai.

The other spectacular change is the prevalence of “New Energy” vehicles, standing out with their green licence plates. New Energy is an appellation grouping together plug-in hybrids, EVs and fuel cell vehicles and these are not constrained by licence plate limitations in Shanghai. The result: they are now holding a significant part of the local car landscape, led by the Roewe ei6 which, despite only having been launched a year ago, is already the most common private car in Shanghai streets. This is relatively logical given SAIC, the company that manufactures Roewe, is based in Shanghai. Other successful models in Shanghai include the Roewe RX5, eRX5 and BYD Qin.

NIO store inside the Shanghai Tower

Chinese EV start-up NIO has established a spectacular store on the ground floor of Shanghai’s highest skyscraper, the Shanghai Tower. Multiple examples of the ES8 were showcased, just as the ES6 featured at the Shanghai Auto Show. There were no ES6 in the Shanghai Tower store however. My Shanghai exploration was also the opportunity to see some of the country’s new EVs in the flesh for the first time, such as one example of the Weltmeister EX5 at Shanghai Hongqiao Airport. I also spotted a few BYD Qin Pro and Tesla Model S and X.

Shanghai street scenes

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. The 3 pics you label as Roewe i5, to prove the i5 is the most popular private car, are all showing the Roewe i6. The giveaways are the shape of the headlamps/grille and the windowline, which offers a 3rd curved window rather than a triangular plastic piece at the end.
    I do see two exampes of the Ei5 in your other photos though, at the edge of the first pic highlighting Tourans and also in the last with the Tesla Model X.

    Beyond that, I’m surprised by the number of Mustangs caught in your pics and the ubiquity of the Touran as a taxi (not too surprised since it’s a Shanghai VW model, but I would have expected the newer Santana or the Lavida to take on taxi duty).

    1. Great spotting Joe – thank you! It’s actually the ei6, not the i6, as they all have green licence plates therefore are New Energy vehicles.
      And you are right on the two examples of Ei5. I guess I was expecting the i5 to be frequent given its sales figures, but I saw none.
      Yes the Chinese are very fond of the Ford Mustang in Tier 1 cities. In more remote areas they are almost inexistent.
      The Touran was also a big surprise to me, as it is the only city that has a foreign MPV as its main taxi model. It’s usually the Jetta or Santana sedans.

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