Blog: Dave LeggettBeijing Show

Dave Leggett | 10 June 2004

Interesting to see that Ford Focus sedan concept break cover in Beijing this week. It has a production ready look to it and Ford is almost saying as much. Speaking of Beijing, Mark Norcliffe, the head of SMMT’s International Department is over there this week and sent me a short note of his initial thoughts following a walk-round on Press Day. He’s hit the nail on the head when he talks about the ‘unease’ underlying the vehicle makers’ JV agreements. Maybe global OEMs cannot afford not to be in the world’s biggest growing automotive market, but there are worries that go with the territory, for sure. And the stuff about political disputes between organisers and companies is fairly typical. Mark’s note is reproduced in full below:


Over-capacity, we are told, is a looming problem for the Chinese auto industry. Well, not at the country’s premier motor show – Auto China – which opened today in Beijing. Here the demand for floor-space has far exceeded supply, and many exhibitors have been left bemoaning the fact that their more grandiose plans have been curtailed.

The organisers – a disparate bunch who were close to staging two rival shows until the government knocked heads together – have done their best to alleviate the problem by relocating much of the commercial vehicle and component sections to a satellite site at the National Agricultural Exhibition Centre.  But that solution hasn’t pleased everybody, and FAW and Dong Feng, the two largest truck makers in China, are boycotting the event.

The main exhibition site is on three levels, which neatly encapsulate the different strata contained within the body of Auto China. The ground floor is where the cars, the glamour and the sharp suits are to be found; and where space is at a premium. Strolling around, it is impossible to avoid the feeling that the automakers have added to their own problems by duplicating many of the models shown. Thus the 307 appears on the stands of both Peugeot and Dong Feng Citroen, PSA’s joint venture which will shortly launch the model in China. The Golo – hardly a runaway best-seller with Chinese customers – is on both the VW and SAIC stands. And then there are the models which are not quite the same – the Chery QQ grinning cheekily at the SGM Spark.

It all goes to show the basic unease which – despite the brave words about partnership and development - underlies many of the current JV agreements. “Same bed, different dreams,” as the Chinese say.

The first floor is mostly populated by the big tier 1 component suppliers and the national pavilions. Here the atmosphere is one of guarded expectation – people hoping that their presence in Beijing will be a productive move, but secretly fearing that the next week may not be the most exciting of their lives.

On the second floor, things change again. The stands are smaller and simpler, the dress code more informal (and more appropriate for temperatures in the mid 30’s), and most of the exhibitors are Chinese component makers. They are here to sell. And, despite the fact that this is officially Press Day, they have a steady flow of international visitors – sharp-eyed businessmen looking for products of adequate quality and interesting price, which they can handle and haggle about on the stand.

A short taxi ride away (the promised shuttle bus is not running, presumably because no-one is expected to go there on Press Day) is the satellite show at the Agricultural Exhibition Centre, a 1960’s monument to Stalinist architecture. But here too the entrepreneurial spirit is thriving. A Western visitor, strolling the aisles, is accosted with the same enthusiasm as he would be in Beijing’s famous Silk Market. Many of the exhibitors here are established suppliers to the local OEM plants, who are now actively looking for export opportunities in overseas markets.
China has a formidable ability to absorb outside influences, and to re-mould in a uniquely Chinese way. Auto China – part international motor show, part Chinese market – is just one example. It’s going to be a good show.

New Ford Focus 4-door


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