We take a look at the most important new cars unveiled at China's Guangzhou motor show
16 November 2018

Nineteen million. That's how many cars have been sold in China this year, at least up to the end of October.

And with the figure growing at the rate of one million cars every two weeks, it has quite likely topped the twenty million mark by now. And that's even before you begin to factor in light commercial vehicles, which also do business here. But who’s counting? 

Despite a recent dip in fortunes for some of the more established Chinese car makers, including the undisputed market leader SAIC (Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation), as trade tensions with the US have served to dent buyer confidence in larger cities, the Chinese car industry continues its impressive march forward. 

The dimension of it all really is quite staggering. But it's not only the number of cars that are sold that make headlines each month; there's also the size of the factories, the number of workers employed, the massive budgets dedicated to research and development, the inevitable plethora of new models, the number of ride-sharing schemes in operation and, in a more recent development, the long list of start-ups seeking to make it big in electric vehicle circles. 

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Backed by government incentives, electric vehicle sales in China have increased at such a rapid rate that many car makers are being forced to launch sub-brands concentrating purely on zero-emissions vehicles just to stay in the game.  Last month, sales of battery-powered vehicles in China increased by 80% over those recorded in October 2017, at 94,052. By the end of October, a total of 529,928 had been sold in 2018. 

The best-selling electric car in October was BAIC (Beijing Automotive Industry Corporation)'s BJEV EU3, which attracted 20,648 sales. But while BAIC rules the Chinese market when it comes to electric vehicles, there any number of newly formed start-ups keen to try their hand. Companies like Nio, Byton, Weltmeister, Xiaopeng, DialEV, Hozon and Leap Motor to name just a few.

China plays host to 26 motor shows annually. Many are regional affairs but still far larger in outright attendance numbers than most of the established motor shows in other parts of the world these days. Guangzhou, which has a population of 12.6 million, is the biggest annual Chinese motor show, ranking only behind those of Shanghai and Beijing, which alternate between themselves each year. 

As previously, there was no lack of new car action in Guangzhou this year. Ten show halls were filled, and unlike recent motor shows in Geneva and Paris, there were no glaring absentees, with every major car maker represented. 

Underlining the importance of the Chinese market to established car makers, Jaguar Land Rover, which now produces selected models in China with its joint venture partner Chery, brought along its largest motor show stand. Spanning the complete length of one hall, it's almost twice as large in overall floor area than the stand used in Paris last month.

And it was a similar story at Audi, CitroënDS, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, NissanPeugeotRenault, Skoda and Volkswagen. Indeed, Skoda here revealed its new Chinese-built Kodiaq GT, a model that, for the time being, is reserved exclusively for Chinese car buyers.

Toyota, which operates a joint venture with the locally-based GAC (Guangzhou Automotive Group) also considered the Guangzhou motor show important enough to use it as the international launch pad for the latest generation of its best-selling model, the Corolla.

As a sign of just how far they have come, though, it was the domestic Chinese car makers that provided the real fireworks this year. With the odd exception, Guangzhou was devoid of the shameless copycat cars that used to be a staple, and ultimate laughing stock, of earlier Chinese motor shows. Yes, there were still a few around, as the new Changan CS85, a blatant rip-off of the BMW X4 if ever there was one, proved. But for the most part, the truly established Chinese car makers launched models with their own unique visual character, as seen by the likes of the Baojun RS5, Haval H7, Hongqi HS7 and Wey P8 GT.

The quality of these newer models is advancing in leaps and bounds, too. A close inspection of the Geely X7 Sport reveals it to be every bit as good in terms of fit and finish as any comparably priced offering out of Europe.

Among the biggest trends evidenced in Guangzhou this year was the advance of the long-range electric car. Armed with ever-improving battery technology, the latest generation of Chinese-produced electric cars have advanced well beyond the 185-mile range that has been the yardstick for some time now and progressed on to 250, 300 and, in exceptional cases, up to 370 miles. 

Among the many announcements made here was the news that Honda had teamed up with joint venture partner GAC to develop the electric powered Everus VE1. Although this is exclusive to China right now, it's clear Honda is using the exercise as a learning step on the way to the launch of its very own range of electric models.

And make no mistake, Chinese car makers have ambitions outside their own car market, key among them brands such as GAC, Great Wall and Zotye. Geely-owned Volvo already sells its Chinese-built S90 in many global markets. Then there’s Lynk&Co, also owned by Geely, which has already announced that it plans to sell its 01, 02 and 03 models in the UK. Although developed in China, though, they will be produced in a factory in Gent, Belgium. 

With the exception of perhaps the Beijing motor show back in April, no other - not Detroit, not Geneva and not Paris - had the sort of new car buzz surrounding it as did Guangzhou this year. As long as the Chinese car industry thrives, so will the motor show. 

Greg Kable

Gallery: Guangzhou motor show 2018

A number of new models have been launched by both Chinese and international manufacturers at the 2018 Guangzhou International Automobile Exhibition.

The theme at Guangzhou 2018 is 'New technology, new life', showing China’s desire to become a world leader in hybrid, electric and autonomous cars. 

 

These are some of the key cars on show this year:

Skoda Kodiaq GT

Skoda's first SUV-coupé, the Kodiaq GT, will serve as the brand's flagship model in China. 

The new model is derived from the Kodiaq seven-seater that's already sold in China alongside the smaller Kamiq and Karoq. There's a choice of two 2.0-litre petrol engines, producing 184bhp and 217bhp, and front or four-wheel drive. 

Skoda is treating China as a testbed for the Kodiaq GT and says that a positive market reaction will increase the likelihood of it being offered in other markets. 

Toyota Corolla Saloon

Also making its debut in Guangzhou is the saloon version of Toyota’s new Corolla. 

Joining the hatchback and Touring Sports estate models, the saloon shares its platform with the Prius and Camry and will be the first Corolla saloon to offer hybrid powertrains.

The Corolla Saloon will be introduced in the UK in early 2019.

MG eZS

MG, owned by Chinese giant SAIC (Shanghai Automotive Industries Corporation), has posted promising sales figures in China lately and now unveiled its first fully-electric car, the eZS.

The new model, based on the company's ZS compact crossover, is likely to sell well in China, which is the largest global market for EVs.

Autocar understands power comes from a front-mounted 148bhp electric motor and the battery is good for a 268-mile range on the old NEDC cycle.

A UK variant is likely, given MG's slow but steady international growth and transition to being an SUV maker. 

GAC Aion

GAC (Guangzhou Automobile Group) is on home turf for this show. The company has demonstrated its global ambition with recent unveilings at the Detroit and Paris motor shows.

Following the 2017 launch of its electric SUV, the GE3, GAC has revealed the Aion electric saloon concept. Expect the production variant to improve upon the GE3's 190-mile range and 9.3sec 0-62mph time, bringing its performance in line with established luxury electric cars such as the Tesla Model S.

Peugeot 508 L

Peugeot has unveiled a long-wheelbase version of its new second-generation 508 in Guangzhou. 

The 508 L has been developed for China due to the overwhelming popularity of saloons and buyers' desire for generous rear leg room. To be manufactured by the PSA Group joint venture partner Dongfeng, the lengthened model will likely be available with the same engines as the standard car. 

BAIC EX3

State-owned car maker BAIC (Beijing Automotive Holding Company) has unveiled its new EX3, an electric compact crossover. 

The EX3 will be manufactured by BAIC subsidiary BJEV (Beijing Electric Vehicle). Producing around 217bhp from its single electric motor, it has a top speed of 93mph.

Audi A6 L

Audi has adapted its fifth-generation A6 saloon for the Chinese market with a new lengthened variant.

Called the A6 L, it's 12cm longer and offers more rear leg room than the standard car. A larger rear door and a redesigned roofline help to mitigate the visual impact of the extended body. 

Additional reporting by Felix Page

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Comments
1

19 November 2018

Amongst the copy cats, lengthened saloons and endless mid size SUVs, there seems very little of note here. How disappointing. Chinese car industry undoubtedly very important and sizeable these days but where is the innovation?

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