The Shanghai motor show 2013 featured many important reveals. Autocar reported live from the event
17 April 2013

There is absolutely nothing like the Shanghai motor show  Do not go there thinking it'll be something like an Asian Frankfurt. For a start it is far bigger than that king of European shows, already famous for wearing your shoe-leather. 

Four years ago there were seven pavilions at Shanghai and we thought its size was awesome. Two years ago there were 10. This year there were 13 of them, thankfully arranged in two long, logical lines - two legs of an upturned ''V" with one mighty extra structure between them, reserved for premium marques. All of these permanent buildings enclose an inner space capable of embracing half a dozen football fields, though for this event it is almost entirely covered with tents occupied by component suppliers. 

Apart, that is, from the part reserved for yet more new buildings. Shanghai's show ground isn't finished yet. 

When you have an industry already one-and-a-half times bigger than that of the US (around 15 million cars) and estimated to be three times bigger in another 10 years, you can easily see why exhibition space is needed by the 70-odd competing car and truck manufacturers; only about half of them easily recognisable to you and me.

So far we've only talked buildings and exhibitors. What you also get on preview day is a seething, jostling mass of curious humanity, swirling around the cars: families, toddlers, platoons of inquisitive teenagers (all of who all seem to have negotiated the tortuous entry hurdles more easily than us Westerners). 

In the midst of this jostling mass, hacks and company officials are trying to communicate with one another, but they are the least of the throng. For car-curious humanity, Shanghai this week is surely the centre of the world.

Luckily, it is surprisingly easy enough to find your way through this enormous exposition. You just choose the East or West wing and start walking. Every self-respecting European marque is here, as part of a 50:50 joint venture with a Chinese partner, and as many less-familiar Chinese marques on their own. Up to four years ago Shanghai was famous for comical copies: a fake "Jeep Cherokee" here, a "Smart" or "Honda CRV" there, all bearing with badges you'd barely heard of. 

Two years ago it was a clutch of rather naive-but-promising electric cars, plus a whole collection of blandly styled four-door saloons, all trying to be the 2005 Honda Accord. 

This year's running theme was platoons of impressive-looking mid-sized SUVs - from the Europeans and Chinese alike - plus a lot of sharper-looking Chinese booted saloons. The electric cars were on the back foot (the celebrated Chinese rush into battery technology has met with some notable reverses) as car-makers seem have noted customer demand is slight. 

Design credibility is something the Chinese makers are gaining quickly, but desirability is the key component that still eludes most of them. Whereas Shanghai VW has 18 per cent of this market, the biggest indigenous Chinese maker, BYD, has less than four per cent.

Among Shanghai's stand-outs for me was the new MG CS SUV, a real surprise packet designed as a co-operative project between MG's Shanghai and Birmingham design studios. It looked progressive enough to be a pure concept, but designers assured us this was the production shape we'd be seeing next year. 

Another traffic-stopper was the Mercedes GLA concept, generally admired and not far from production, plus Shanghai-GM's surprise Buick Riviera, the gull-wing four-door hybrid coupe designed entirely in the local studio. Citroen's lovely low-roofed DS SUV, the Wild Rubis, also destined for production around the end of next year. 

However, it was the sheer, overwhelming fact of this mighty show - and the seething mass of humanity that will be staging it, viewing it and buying from it over the next few days - that took centre stage for me in Shanghai this year. 

If you ever doubted that personal mobility has a future, or that car design is adapting dramatically to the demands of exploding Asian demand, or that solutions for congestion and pollution are needed more urgently than ever - then a visit to this new hub of car culture will smarten up your ideas. China is fast becoming, on its own, the generator of fully one-third of world automotive demand. Europe may still make the best and best-designed cars, but Shanghai and Beijing are indisputably its key customers.

Click the image above to launch our show gallery, or click here for more Shanghai motor show 2013 news.

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Comments
5

20 April 2013

Hope Prodigy doesn't read this, but, that MG3 looks damned good, just hope what's underneath matches the exterior.

Peter Cavellini.

22 April 2013

Autocar, I think you messed up the subtitle on Image 49.  You say its the Maserati Ghibli but I believe it is actually the new Quattroporte.  The one after it (#50) is the Ghibli.

 

22 April 2013

Some classic pics/captions here.

No. 38.  In the search for niches in the market, are some Chinese manufacturers getting so desperate that they have to pitch to the Taliban?

No. 40.  Ditto Nissan, desperate to sell to Communists - "Nissan's Friend-ME concept is designed to make all the occupants feel equal."

23 April 2013

that limousine with a retro trabant face is cool

25 July 2013

nice show these luxury cars.

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