Bentley's new hybrid model unveiled at the Beijing Auto Show this past weekend. (China Daily)
When the world’s top auto companies flocked to the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition, or Beijing Auto Show this past weekend, they pulled out all the stops to capture the attention of China’s rapidly growing base of car buyers. From the new rush toward hybrid models to SUV crossovers, we’re giving you a rundown of the top market trends that were visible in the luxury segment, which spans mass luxury brands like Audi all the way up to ultra-luxe models by the likes of Bugatti.
China’s anti-corruption crackdown has prompted the country's officials to avoid showing off flashy cars, but this year’s auto show revealed strong faith among companies that the country's high-net-worth individuals are going to keep buying cars at top-tier prices. Ultra-luxe unveiling highlights included the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse “Black Bess” and Rolls-Royce’s Pinnacle Travel Phantom. Meanwhile, BMW unveiled a model that demonstrates its plan to compete with ultra-luxe companies like Rolls-Royce and Bentley in China with its new “Vision Future Luxury” 9 series concept model. If it goes into production, the model would be sold at a higher price point than the company’s 7 series flagship limousine, which is sold mainly in China. Meanwhile, Ferrari CEO Amedeo Felisa said at the show that his company expects a slight increase in China sales this year, and will continue its China expansion plan to reach inland cities.
The Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse “Black Bess” at the Beijing Auto Show. (China Daily)
China’s “yuppies” looking to unload their hard-earned cash on a new car are also a main target for car companies this year, according to Reuters. The country’s young urban professionals are striving to be “different” with their choices, and buying models that sit at lower price points, such as the Audi A3 compact sedan that goes for around RMB280,000 (US$45,000). According to Wall Street Journal, several companies such as Nissan showed off concepts targeting the “post-80s generation” and hired young movie actors and pop stars to pose with the cars.
Foreign automakers are increasingly under pressure to meet Chinese government demands to increase electric car production to fight pollution, and that held true for luxury at this weekend's event. From the ultra-luxe to mass luxury segments, automakers were all about hybrid technology and energy efficiency this year. On the higher end of the luxury segment, British company Bentley released a plug-in hybrid concept, while in mass luxury, Audi debuted its A6 L e-tron hybrid model that is ready for production.
In the mass luxury segment, crossover models taking elements from both SUVs and sedans were the hot items of the show, with new models by Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and Lexus. While the new Lexus NX is ready for production, Audi showed off its TT Offroad Concept model (which also follows the hybrid technology trend), and Mercedes-Benz revealed its Concept Coupe SUV.
Not your average bureaucrat's car: Audi's new SUV crossover concept model. (China Daily)
With massive tariffs on imported cars in China, auto companies continue to see joint ventures to produce models domestically as a way to stay competitive. At this year’s auto show, Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler unveiled plans to build a new all-electric vehicle with Chinese partner BYD. In addition, the chief of China operations at Jaguar Land Rover told Financial Times that the company will likely be building “a car of a level of quality here in China that’s actually going to be higher than our parent factory back in Liverpool” as part of a joint venture with Chinese brand Chery. As long as tariffs remain high, we're likely to see more of these deals in the future.