Blog: 36 hours in Shenyang
Chris Wright | 25 May 2012
That’s what you call a flying visit, having left Munich at 10pm on Tuesday night, I am now back sitting in the departure lounge here at 7am Friday morning awaiting my connection back to London.
We were on the ground in China for just 36 hours and it was interesting to see a city other than Beijing and Shanghai where I have been on many occasions. Shenyang is a lot less bureacratic than the Chinese capital and not as cosmopolitan as Shanghai – not that I really got to see a lot of it.
I was the only UK representative among a group of Germans, Austrians, Italians, French, Greek, Czech and Romanians on the visit although at the opening of the new BMW factory we were joined by several hundred Chinese journalists.
First event was the welcome dinner, hosted by BMW Group’s China president Ivan Koh, He was great company at the table and over and above the auto industry he fed us one or two extraordinary facts.
China is currently the second largest consumer of luxury goods in the world behind Japan, and he confidently predicts it will take over as number one by the end of this year.
Already the world’s most populous country at 1.3bn, Koh told me that by 2025 the population will grow by a staggering 350m. Think about that number – it’s bigger than the entire population of the USA.
Fascinating fact number three is that there are nine cities with a population of 10m or more, 87 with 5-10m inhabitants and 176 with between 1m and 5m. Of these, Shanghai is the biggest at 23m.
Sleep never comes easily on the first night – and in this case the only night – in the hotel and I was wide awake at 5am. A bit of work in the room, a walk around the grounds of the vast Maritim Hotel, breakfast and a meeting with BMW’s finance chief Friedrich Echiner.
He gave us the low-down on the new factory, told us about the enduring joint venture with Brilliance and adroitly swerved round some of the more awkward questions thrown at him.
Then the inevitable bus ride out to the new Tiexi factory for the official opening in the presence of regional and city officials along with BMW chairman Norbert Reithofer.
Traditional Chinese drums, official speeches and the obligatory dragon dance was followed by a quick buffet lunch – oh and Chinese journalists don’t get the concept of joining a line, so you really had to fight for your food.
The factory tour backed up Eichiner’s claim that Tiexi is up there with best of the BMW Group plants, and more advanced in many ways although it is still in the ramp up stage for X1 and the new long wheelbase 3-series does not come on line until later.
Back on the bus and an hour to pack and get down to the farewell BBQ. Departure from the hotel was at 11.15pm to get us to the airport for a 1.15am departure – and some sleep.
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