Imagine paying cash for your £50,000 motorcar. It happens all the time in China where customers will walk into a showroom, produce the money and expect to drive away in their brand new motor there and then.
"Cash will get you just about anything and there is very little bought on finance," said one China industry veteran.
And this is not restricted just to the showroom.
How about going to press day at a motor show hoping to make your purchase on the spot?It happened on the Jaguar Land Rover stand at the recent Shanghai Motor Show. Within moments of the Evoque being unveiled, five people had come onto the stand and wanted to buy one. They were quite miffed when it was explained to them that no sales could be completed that day because it was press day and there were no sales staff on the stand.
Two Chinese journalists (well, they were wearing media passes) wanted to know the price of the Range Rover Autobiography Ultimate (a cool RMB3 million - about £300,000).
They were totally unfazed when the price was written for them in a notebook as 3,000,000. They then pointed to one of the Evoques on display. They were told it would cost the equivalent of £65,000) They nodded approvingly before reaching for what appeared to be a cheque book.
New brands likely to emerge
China is throwing up a whole new world of car companies with names such as Brilliance, Chery, Changan, SAIC and Great Wall.
Add to these the fact that companies such as Volvo and MG are now owned by the Chinese and you can almost see the momentum growing.
Most of the world's big carmakers are building cars in the country with local joint venture partners - the partners are necessary under Chinese law, and it may not be long before we see hybrids emerging.
Not the petrol-electric hybrids, but new brands developed jointly by western and Chinese companies.
At the Shanghai show Chongqing Changan Automobile, which has a three-way partnership with Ford Motor Co and Mazda Motor Corp in China, said that the joint venture is considering rolling out its own brand.
Under the partnership Changan currently makes and sells the Ford Focus, Fiesta, and Mondeo in China. It also sells the Mazda2 and Mazda3.
Changan Auto General Manager Zhang Baolin said that a new brand formed by the JV is being discussed. This would fit with Ford's plans to increase its presence in China.
However, Ford was a little more coy on the subject, saying there are no plans now for an indiginous brand, but It is already planning to introduce 15 new vehicles, double its dealerships from 340 and add 1,200 new jobs in China by 2015. The first of the 15 new models, the Focus, will go into production in 2012 at new factory in Chongqing with an initial capacity of 150,000 units.
General Motors also has big plans looking to double its sales in China to around 5m units by 2015, up from 2.35m last year.
GM China chief Kevin Wale, a former Vauxhall managing director, said GM planned to introduce around 60 new and upgraded models in China over the next five years, around 12 of them being Buicks and 15 Chevrolets.
He added: "We have set some aggressive goals with our five-year plan. We are confident that we will achieve every one of our goals."
BYD is regrouping somewhat after expanding too quickly in 2008 and 2009 and offering customers more traditional engines alongside their electric range. BYD’s big launch at Shanghai is the S6 SUV, powered by 2.0- or 2.4-litre turbocharged engines.
Roewe W5 Concept
This Ssangyong Kyron based SUV is a joint venture with SAIC, and will be powered by the same 1.8T petrol engine found in the Roewe 550 and 750.
Audi Q3 freewheels into the limelight
Audi's compact Q3 SUV, making its world debut at the Shanghai Auto Show last week, will be the first Audi to feature ‘disconnect coasting' - a system that automatically freewheels downhill to save fuel.
It will be fitted as standard to front-wheel drive eco models with 2.0-litre petrol engines when the Q3 goes on sale in this part of the world in November; prices are expected to start from about £25,000.
This was a teaser for the Q3 but the production car loses the over-sized Q7 grille and sharply dipping roofline of the concept.
The five-door Q3 is based on the underpinnings of the recently facelifted VW Tiguan, with which it also shares its transversely mounted engines and gearbox combinations.
At 4390 mm long, 1830 mm wide and 1600 mm tall (roof rail included), the Q3 is 239 mm shorter, 50 mm narrower and 53 mm lower than the Q5. Audi claims a 1500kg kerb weight for the base front-drive model. Weight-saving measures include the adoption of an aluminium bonnet and tailgate, although the remainder of the body is made from high-strength steel.
The Q3 could arrive here with a choice of three engines. The petrol units are a 168 bhp 2.0-litre turbo, with front drive or four-wheel drive, and a four-wheel drive only 208 bhp version of the same engine.
The diesel option at launch will be a 175 bhp version of Audi's 2.0-litre common-rail engine, with four-wheel drive only.
The Q3 will be built in China and at Seat's Martorell factory in Spain. If Q3 sales can reach the 100,000 level that Audi is said to have pencilled in, that will go a long way to easing Seat's current under-utilisation of the factory.
Volvo stuns with new design direction
Volvo sprung one of the biggest surprises of the Shanghai Auto Show with the unveil of the Concept Universe, a massive, 5-metre long saloon.
And it's only partly aimed at the Chinese market where big cars dominate. Another concept based on similar lines will be unveiled at the Frankfurt show in September.
"New demanding Chinese customers influence the type of car we produce and how big they are," explained Volvo design chief Peter Horbury.
The Concept Universe is a public experiment, he told headlineauto. It is the work of the design studio in Gothenburg, Sweden, and had no input from the new Shanghai design studio.
With the 1992 Environmental Concept Car (ECC), Volvo monitored feedback from customers around the world. The exercise "helped shape Volvos for the next 15 years," said Horbury.
The same will happen with the Concept Universe. The car draws heavily on Volvo's heritage, taking the front styling cues from the legendary Amazon to give what Horbury describes as a "classic and graceful car with clean shapes and no swoops."
But it wouldn't be just a car for China. "We mustn't alienate the rest of the world," he said.
At over five metres long this is a big car for the big Chinese market. The Concept Universe is the work of the Gothenburg design studio in Sweden and draws heavily on Volvo's heritage, and the legendary Amazon in particular. Design chief Peter Horbury describes it as a "classic and graceful car with clean shapes and no swoops".
BMW Brilliance 5 Series hybrid
BMW confirmed at the Shanghai Motor Show that it will start production of a plug-in hybrid version of its 5 Series in China from 2013.
The plug-in is based on the long wheelbase version of the 5 which BMW's China company, BMW Brilliance Automotive, began building last year.
The car, called ‘New Energy Vehicle', is based on the ‘mild' hybrid drivetrain BMW showed last year in the ActiveHybrid 5 concept. That car is equipped with a twin-turbo six-cylinder engine, eight-speed transmission and 40kW electric motor.
The 5 Series hybrid plug-in will have an all-electric/emissions-free range of 75 km (47 miles) when moving at a constant speed of 60 km/h (37 mph). Maximum range, including the petrol engine, will be 400 km (250 miles).
BMW 6 Series Coupé unveiled
BMW broke with tradition by launching the convertible version of its third-generation 6 Series some six months ahead of the coupé.
The soft-top went on sale in Europe in time for spring and it will be autumn before the hard-top arrives.
Still, it meant a genuine world debut in Shanghai for the coupé which mirrors the styling and content of the cabrio.
Slightly longer and wider than the outgoing model, BMW says that this translates into more interior space with additional rear legroom. Headroom also has been increased, although the overall height of the vehicle is slightly lower. The hard top model is due in Ireland later this year.
New Mercedes A-Class marks a compact future
Mercedes-Benz will launch four new compact models starting from next year with the new A-Class, said CEO Dieter Zetsche, speaking at the unveil of the Concept A-Class.
This car, which will be in showrooms from next year, marks a new design direction from Mercedes Benz, he said, and is the first of these new compact vehicles, he said.
The design injects some dynamism into the third generation A-Class in a bid to provide more serious opposition to the BMW 1 series.
The concept is powered by a BlueEFFICIENCY turbocharged 2-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, producing 210bhp and making it nearly twice as powerful as any current A-Class.
One notable feature is the radar-based collision warning system with adaptive Brake Assist, a first in this size of car. The system gives the driver visual and audible warnings and prepares the braking pressure needed when the driver hits the pedal.
The styling for the concept was previewed at last year's Geneva show with the F800 Style that was part of design boss Gorden Wagener's ‘Bionic' styling language, which will dictate the look of numerous sweeping Mercedes saloons all due to be launched over the next few years.
The profile of the Concept A-Class is dominated by two strong lines emphasising the car's coupe-like character and giving it a much more purposeful appearance than the outgoing model.
Citroen unveils DS5
Citroen revealed the eagerly anticipated third model in its innovative and distinctive DS line: DS5.
Designed to express the full extent of Citroen’s ‘Créative Technologie’, the DS5 combines ground-breaking style, rewarding driving dynamics and exceptional refinement with innovative engineering solutions.
The DS5 is the first Citroen model to feature HYbrid4 diesel hybrid technology, providing enhanced performance and class leading environmental credentials.
The advanced HYbrid4 system delivers 200bhp; four-wheel drive capability; emission-free electric power for the city; and an acceleration boost function for the open road - with total CO2 emissions of just 99g/km.
The DS line has already redefined expectations in the supermini segment with DS3, and combines the style of a coupé and the flexibility of a five-door hatchback with DS4.
Progressing to the executive segment, the DS5 targets customers looking for a truly bold and assertive car with a resolutely modern approach to vehicle design.
All-new Volkswagen Beetle breaks cover in Shanghai
Volkswagen unveiled the latest generation Beetle in Shanghai, marking a new era in this iconic car’s history.
Due in Ireland early next year, the latest generation moves away from design of the New Beetle of 1998 and instead draws on cues from the original and Beetle Ragster concept shown in Detroit in 2005. As such it’s longer, wider and lower, giving a more masculine and dynamic appearance.
The track width front and rear, as well as the wheelbase at 2,537 mm, are also increased. The car’s new proportions mean the roof extends back further, the windscreen is shifted back and the rear section is now more akin to that of the original Beetle. The boot capacity is a practical 310 litres, up from 209 litres in the 1998 model. The Beetle has four seats, with a split-fold rear seat for added versatility.
Inside the cabin, the Beetle’s designers created a modern, practical and distinctive appearance with easy to identify and ergonomic controls. Certain features, such as the glovebox and colour accent panels hark back to the original.
Internationally, three trim levels will be available – Beetle, Design and Sport – and Volkswagen say that each will be endowed with its own individual character and features. A wide range of innovative optional equipment will also be available, ranging from Keyless Access through satellite navigation systems and a panoramic sunroof to bi-xenon headlights and LED daytime running lights – all of which are available for the first time on a Beetle.
In Ireland, we could see a choice of as many four engines offered but the line-up has not yet been decided. The choice will include some or all of the following: three petrol units – a 1.2-litre TSI 105 bhp, a 1.4-litre TSI 160 bhp and a 2.0-litre TSI 200 bhp; as well as one diesel – a 1.6-litre 105 bhp with BlueMotion Technology.
Thanks to the addition of Stop/Start and battery regeneration systems the Beetle 1.6-litre 105 bhp is estimated to have a combined fuel consumption of 65.7 mpg and carbon dioxide emissions of 112 g/km.
Volkswagen says that as well as being economical and environmentally sound, the Beetle is also built to be one of the safest cars on the road thanks not only to features such as standard ESP and six airbags but also a laser-welded and galvanised body structure which has one of the highest torsional rigidity values in the segment.
In addition the range-topping engine, the 2.0-litre 200 bhp, will feature standard XDS electronic differential lock as fitted to the Golf GTI.
When the original was launched in 1938, it was known simply as ‘the Volkswagen’, quickly acquiring a raft of nicknames from across the world. Whatever the name, its popularity is not in question, with 21.5 million sold in the past 73 years. We will bring more details when they become available closer to the Irish launch.
Subaru launches XV Concept at Shanghai show
Subaru unveiled the XV Concept at the Shanghai Auto Show.
Subaru says the concept car defines a new generation of crossover vehicle, blending traditional SUV practicality within a fashionable form.
The XV Concept has been specifically designed for customers seeking a vehicle offering the looks, benefits and packaging that stretch beyond the existing choice of crossover models.
The new generation design concept car combines Subaru's crossover-like driving dynamic with what the designers describe as a "playful nature". The key concept is the integration of authentic functionality but with urban, stylish design. The vehicle was engineered to blend the commanding silhouette seen around the lower half of the body with a fashionable image in a single, modern package. The XV's body exhibits the very solid, dynamic and independent styling so characteristic of all Subaru's.
The front of the vehicle features design elements that are common to the Subaru stable, including the hexagon grille, winged motif and hawk-eye headlights. The centre of the grille is the same colour as the body itself, which contributes to the solid and powerful look while the combination of the black lower bumper protectors and metallic highlights reinforces the cross-over design and give the XV real presence.
Coverage of the Shanghai Motor Show in association with HeadlineAuto
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