With China now dominating global automotive sales it was no surprise that virtually every one of the world’s major brands was on display at the 2012 Beijing Auto Show.
While the Beijing show may not yet have the prestige of others such as Paris/Frankfurt, Geneva or New York, it is certainly comparable in terms of size, product volume and glitz. Some 120 new models were displayed at Beijing compared with 84 at last year’s Frankfurt show.
In the tradition of the European shows of old, almost every one of the 1100-plus cars at Beijing had a glamorous model draped across it.
Of the 120 new releases at the show, 36 came from foreign carmakers and 84 from Chinese manufacturers. These numbers reflect the direction that the Beijing show took with the emphasis well and truly on the huge domestic market where most of the dramatic growth has occurred.
First off the mark was the new Fiat Viaggio, the first locally-produced model to emerge from a joint venture between Fiat and the Guangzhou Automobile Group (GAC).
A small-medium sedan, it’s based on the same platform as the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, but is currently only built in left-hand drive format and unlikely at this stage to be converted to RHD for the Australian market.
One model from the Chrysler Group that will be sold in Australia is the new Chrysler 300C. The version on display had a less imposing grille than the one that dominated the previous model and saw it dubbed ‘the gangster car’.
Chrysler Australia chief, Clyde Campbell, told us that there were three options for the front of the new 300C but that no decision on the Australian variants has yet been made. Mr Campbell also suggested that the lowered specced Chrysler 300 could be added to the range.
Volkswagen has a huge presence in China through its alliance with the country’s largest carmaker, SAIC. Indeed one of the eight large halls used for the show was occupied entirely by VW and related brands such as Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini, Skoda and Porsche.
Porsche showed its second generation Cayenne GTS with a more powerful engine, stronger chassis and sportier features. Pre-orders are already being taken in Australia with deliveries beginning in September.
Another debutant at the show was the Range Rover Evoque Special Edition With Victoria Beckham. Only 200 units of the Posh limited edition will be built and likely to be quickly snapped up by the status-conscious, upwardly mobile Chinese executive class.
A new variant of the Subaru Liberty that will be sold only in China and Australia was unveiled. As yet un-named it will feature 18-inch wheels and a ride height 60 mm higher than the standard models and aimed mainly at non-urban buyers.
Of the two Chinese brands that are currently on sale in Australia, Chery showed that its range was much wider than the small cars on sale here, with a total of 20 models on display including three world premieres and two concept cars.
Likewise, Great Wall, in Australia only with price-busting utes and SUVs had a stand crammed with vehicles of all shapes and sizes. No word yet on when or if these two brands will expand in Australia.