Blog: Dave LeggettBeijing Show

Dave Leggett | 21 November 2006

We got caught up in heavy traffic on the way to the Beijing Auto Show on Saturday - press day. It was a portent of what was to come. This 'press day' was inundated; how many were legitimate reps of the press was hard to judge. It certainly wasn't for the faint hearted. Anything remotely interesting was ten deep. Law of the jungle. You could forget press packs in English and most of the cars on display had locked doors; the usual complimentary refreshments were absent also.

Not that I am complaining you understand - I just want to paint a picture of an auto show that was a little different to the ones we are used to in Detroit and Europe. Lord knows what the first public days will be like.

The Chinese enthusiasm for cars is clearly very strong. It's still all new and very exciting for China.  

On the flight home I was left pondering how far it can go. China's eastern cites are pretty crowded, so mass-transportation modes will always be the main way that people get around in those places. I guess market development is filtering out from the current hotspots to places next in line further inland. Eventually, the used car market develops too as the affluent early adopters replace their cars. The aftermarket and 'car culture' is still hugely undeveloped in China - it must constitute a massive opportunity. 

But to come back to the question of cheap vehicles - such as low-cost pickups - and their affordability, maybe car clubs and concepts of shared ownership could work in China.

Okay, here's another snippet that I will stick in here before I forget it. Group purchase to lever customer buying power is proving popular, I was told. How does it work? Word gets around, someone sets up a website soliciting for people to sign-up to buy, say, a Hyundai Accent. This purchasing model assumes that no-one is in a mad hurry - a good price takes precedent over wanting the car now.

The numbers of sign-ups - each individual wanting a new Accent - steadily increases. When there are, say, fifty, the ringleader swings into action and approaches a dealer with an order for fifty Hyundai Accents. The size of the order means a big discount may be negotiable. The buyers are happy, the dealer is happy.

Okay, another thought that won't go away. At what point does all this economic liberalisation and alongside that, the ability of an increasingly motorised population to travel independently, lead to growing pressures for political reforms? Or is everyone too busy making bucks to care?

FEATURE: Beijing Show confirms Chinese coming of age, but challenges are ahead


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