On one level, the 14th biennial Shanghai motor show - or Shanghai International Automobile Industry Exhibition, to give it its full name - is meat and drink to the frivolous critic. You could amuse yourself for ages lampooning the organisation, always so close to chaos, or the sub-Carpenters muzak (with bonus Mandarin lyrics) that blares from every speaker in every one of the two dozen halls.
You could also make fun of the unsmiling platoons of dark-haired car industry executives, all apparently wearing the same navy suit, who seem constantly to stick their elbows into your ribs, and who shout into their mobile phones as if addressing a crowd.
But that would be to take the whole thing far too cheaply. The Shanghai motor show, and the Beijing event with which it alternates annually, is already one of the half dozen most significant events in the world motor industry's calendar, and it can only become more important still.
This year, post-recession, China is confirming its position as the world's biggest (and greatest ever) car market, with sales in the first quarter this year on course to reach the 20 million mark. That's 30 to 40 percent bigger than the whole of Europe of the whole of the US. It's 10 times the UK volume, seven times that of Germany.
It is such a vast market (tipped by most experts exceed 30 million by 2020) that the cautious noises some foreign makers were making just a couple of years ago now look ridiculous. As Kevin Wale, CEO of Shanghai GM put it when we spoke yesterday: "You have to think about expansion every day. We're selling 2.5 million cars now. If that goes up by 10 percent or more, as expected, that's 250,000 cars plus. It's a new plant, right there..."
And the point is, this year's Auto Shanghai is the window on all of this. It used to be manageable, but now it's the at least the size of Europe's mammoth Frankfurt showcase, and growing rapidly and bewilderingly larger. How's this for a quote from a spokesman for China's automobile manufacturer's association when I asked the official numbed of Chinese car makers? "We think it's around 120, but we're not quite sure..."
There were lots of new cars, for sure. The naive stuff from indigenous Chinese makers, Great Wall, BYD, SAIC and the rest, has all-but disappeared, replaced by variations (to my eye) on a mid-80s Honda Accord saloon, because an astonishing 80 per cent of China's car shoppers are first-time buyers, and these are the cars they consider safest and most sensible: bigger saloon cars with lots of boot space.
We shouldn't fear for the direction of bold design though, says Kevin Wale. Buyers are catching up amazingly fast - for instance, Buick's all-Chinese design for a compact SUV, called Envision, heads firmly into Land Rover Evoque territory (and Shanghai GM rarely wastes time on purely speculative concepts) and Peugeot's brilliant SxC, Range Rover sized but sleeker, is also a serious effort for this market, even if management hasn't quite given it the nod.