The Guangzhou motor show, which got underway this week and runs until 29 November, is the second-largest show in China after the alternating event that’s shared between Shanghai and Beijing.
Held in the vast halls which also host the annual Canton Trade Fair, Guangzhou has in recent years become far more important on the world stage with a number of international manufacturers choosing to give new models world premieres at the show.
This year is no exception, with Mercedes Benz resurrecting the Maybach name as a sub-brand in the form of the Mercedes-Maybach S600, which enjoyed a simultaneous unveiling in Los Angeles. In China if it is big and German it is bound to sell; Volkswagen even finds a willing market for the Phaeton.
Most motor shows in China are little more than events put on by dealers with cars often being sold right off the show floor. While Guangzhou is more organised than that, information about new models can be seriously scarce for customers wanting to find out more.
One oddity of the Chinese market is that the big multinationals are forced to manufacture in conjunction with local joint-venture partners. Many such as Volkswagen, Honda, and Toyota have two different joint-venture partners with competing products. They have to keep the joint-venture partners happy and so you get overlapping products such as Volkswagen and Honda selling both the European and American versions of the Passat and Accord.
In the case of Toyota at this year's Guangzhou motor show this led to the near-identical Corolla and Levin being displayed side by side. The FAW-produced Corolla is the international version, whereas the Levin produced by Guangqi is similar to the North American version but unique to China and is meant to be more youthful.
Adding to the mix, GAC Group (Guangqi) on home turf decided to take up half a hall duplicating much of what was displayed by their joint-ventures and adding their own brands to the display.
The international manufacturers
The Guangzhou show is not as important as Beijing/Shanghai, but with China a major market for international manufacturers, it is still important on the world stage.
In addition to the Mercedes-Maybach mentioned above, Ford gave an official launch to its revived Escort. This China-only car is based on the previous-generation Focus combined with the 1.5-litre engine used in the Fiesta in China.
Aimed as a low-cost car for consumers based on proven technology it is surprising how basic the interior is. Most Chinese producers manage to put touchscreen infotainment systems into their cars but Ford have omitted one from the Escort.