A quick walkaround tour of the show revealed interiors with interesting grains, close stitching and neatly proportioned switchgear. There is still huge room for improvement, though: for example, hard interior plastics remain the rule rather than the exception and some engineering foul-ups are still in evidence.
But the significant point is that Chinese homegrown car makers are catching up with the Western ones at a rate of knots.
Recruitment of high-profile design talent such as Geely’s Peter Horbury and Tomas Ingenlath, are well-known but European consultants including Pininfarina and Alfredo Stola are behind others.
There is still plenty of room in this huge market, however, for both domestic and import brands. New car sales in China topped 25 million last year, and despite a momentary lull are expected to climb further.
Just over half those sales are saloons, with the balance of SUVs expected to grow.
Sales of large saloons are still dominated by the chauffeur market, to the degree that Volvo only sells a long-wheelbase S90 saloon in China, which means it doesn’t need a ‘L’ badge that’s applied ubiquitously to rivals' LWB models.
“[Geely] Chairman Li Shufu was adamant that we wouldn’t put an L on the trunk,’ said Volvo design chief Ingenlath.
But there’s a good reason why manufacturers like Geely, Haval and Jinbao had show stands festooned with small, medium and large SUVs – Chinese family drivers are flocking to such models, attracted by their practicality, suitability for pockmarked roads and styling/image.
They’re affordable, too, for China’s growing middle class with increasing disposable income. A C-segment Jianling SUV with crisp styling and an attractive interior costs the equivalent of £16,000, which is at least £10,000 cheaper than a similar small SUV in the UK.
The Jianling has a fake-leather wrapped dashboard, chrome-trimmed switchgear and door cards that combine at least four finishes, including faux-carbonfibre. Bargain-basement it is not.