The Chinese automakers may be confined to the basement at this year’s Detroit show, but their products are showing signs of progress. Many models are still heavily ’inspired’ by Western designs. The BYD F8, for example, looks like a Mercedes CLK – it even uses the same headlight clusters. Power comes from a BYD-developed 2.0-litre engine that’s based on a Mitsubishi unit. The performance isn’t great, with a 14sec 0-62mph time, but the F8 does get safety features like ABS, four airbags and seatbelt pre-tensioners plus generous equipment levels. And of course it will be extremely cheap.Then there’s the Changfeng CS6, a tidy if plain looking SUV that uses the VW-developed 2.0-litre commonrail diesel engine also favoured by Chrysler in many European products. The Changfeng is perhaps the most advanced possibility for European sales of all the Chinese cars, meeting our emissions standards and safety regulations. That said, the car's cabin quality remains on a par with early-90s Rover. It’s certainly price that will be key if these cars are to have any Western appeal.It’s worth remembering that last year the Chinese manufacturers were seen as a joke, tucked away somewhere in the lobby. Judging by the speed of their product development, we wouldn’t be surprised if China has a presence on the main show floor this time next year.