We need to talk about the Beijing Auto BJ80. Sigh. You’d have seen it; it’s China’s unwelcome answer to the old Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG 6x6.
It’s a wholly unnecessary clone that will make for one of the talking points of the Beijing motor show, and not because there’s little to nothing Mercedes-Benz can do about it since Beijing Auto is a joint venture partner of Mercedes and that apple cart will not want to be rocked.
Why it’s disappointing is because it feels like such a backward step for the Chinese car industry. In the Autocar still on sale this week in print, and in an article soon to appear online, Greg Kable runs us through the complete A-Z of the Chinese car industry.
What’s revealed is an industry of huge progression and now innovation, particularly in the field of electrification, with more than one eye on leading the global car industry, not merely imitating and catching up with it.
Half a dozen years ago, Chinese cars all felt like Honda Civics from the 1980s.
In the past couple of years, it’s only the dynamics, branding and perceived quality of vehicles that China has to catch up with, such is its industry's progress.
At the most recent Chinese show in Guangzhou, the talk was all of European launches with new dedicated brands built around SUVs and electric cars. I’d expect even more progress to have been made in the six months since my last visit to China.
Yet at Guangzhou, there were not cars like the BJ80. Beijing, the biggest biennial show in China (rotating with Shanghai), seems to signal an unwelcome showcase for this tiring side of the Chinese motor industry.
Shame. Because for the mainstream media that might only write one story from the show, it’s the likes of the ‘look at how silly it is’ BJ80 that might steal the headlines, rather than the progress China is making towards being a huge export player in the global car market.