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THIS IS THE SECOND Shanghai Motor Show that I’m reporting on without actually having attended. (Justification is that I’ve been to Shanghai only once; and, besides, the show hasn’t been run for several years what with China’s Covid lockdown.) A lot has happened in the decade since my last virtual report. And, fortunately, Keith Bradsher was there this year, wherein he reported “In China, a Big Auto Show Returns to a Country That Has Gone Electric,” The New York Times, April 19, 2023.
Here in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow are tidbits gleaned from his report together with my usual Internet sleuthing.
Made in China. Bradsher’s opening lines: “A hall showing off electric vehicles made by Nio, XPeng Motors, Zeekr and dozens of other Chinese companies was mobbed with visitors. An area nearby full of gasoline-powered cars by foreign brands barely got a second look by anyone.”
This is very much in line with Thomas F. Friedman’s recent discussion of China’s transition from shallow to deep goods.
Bradsher shared a Volkswagen prediction from the show: “Within two years, half the cars sold in China, the world’s largest automobile market, will be electric, up from only 6 percent in 2020.”
Coming Our Way? Thus far, U.S. regulatory matters have precluded Chinese cars in our market. Shoddiness of Chinese products (see the early Geely) didn’t help.
And certainly Washington changes to EV subsidies haven’t encouraged it.
A Chinese Auto Transformation. “During the pandemic,” Bradsher writes, “when China’s borders were sealed because of ‘zero Covid’ precautions, its auto industry was quietly transformed and the market share of foreign companies shrank. Today half the cars sold in Shanghai itself are already electric.”
Bradsher quotes Silvio Pietro Angori, chief executive and managing director of Pininfarina of Italy: “The internal combustion engine is done, it’s gone, it doesn’t exist any more.”
BEV Designs. “Chinese brands,” Bradsher says, “have adopted unusual electric car designs while foreign companies and their Chinese joint ventures have played it safe. The wheels are nearly at the corners of the Chinese brand cars, an architecture that also allows more room for batteries under the floor in the middle. Nio and Xpeng have chosen sleek designs, while Changan, based in western China, is making cars so rectangular that they look faintly Cubist.”
The rectilinear design ethic, of course, worked just fine in the original Austin Mini and reappeared in the Honda Unibox concept car. I’m also reminded of the Le Corbusier Voiture Minimum from 1928.
Tomorrow in Part 2, Keith Bradsher describes a car for the ladies, a vote for hybrids, and another for sodium rather than lithium. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2023
You threw us a good wake-up question this morning, Dennis. I quickly recognized the first circuit from feeding on Rob Walker’s stories in R&T, but that second one took me a few minutes.
However, China built 27 new domestic coal fueled Power Plants last year to fill their need for energy, will build even more this year, and continues to build many more in third world client countries. https://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/international-issues/asia-builds-new-coal-plants-europe-denies-them/
Bring back the Cyclops! Electrified of course, Thimble-Drome is
getting a bit expensive.