Bangkok Post

Crowds in face masks pack out China Auto ex­hi­bi­tion af­ter pan­demic de­lay

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>>BEI­JING: Crowds packed a mega mo­tor show in Bei­jing yes­ter­day — the only ma­jor in­ter­na­tional auto event this year — as man­u­fac­tur­ers hope to boost the world’s big­gest car mar­ket de­spite the coro­n­avirus bat­ter­ing de­mand.

De­layed for five months be­cause of Covid-19, the 10-day event opened as China has largely brought the out­break un­der con­trol, although travel re­stric­tions mean most over­seas ex­ec­u­tives ap­peared vir­tu­ally to in­tro­duce their new mo­tors.

But this did not stop a packed au­di­ence in manda­tory face masks from cheer­ing as new cars were driven on stage to be shown off.

The fact the glitzy gath­er­ing was go­ing ahead marked “a sym­bol of hope” in the in­dus­try, BMW China CEO Jochen Goller told the crowds yes­ter­day morn­ing.

Tick­ets were lim­ited this year in a bid to re­duce crowds, although crowds surged through the ex­hi­bi­tion cen­tre shoul­der-to-shoul­der.

China’s auto in­dus­try is show­ing signs of re­cov­ery af­ter pas­sen­ger car sales col­lapsed by around 80% in Fe­bru­ary, when con­sumers stayed home and the econ­omy came to a near-stand­still to curb the virus out­break.

Sales have picked up af­ter a painful first quar­ter, up 8.8% on-year last month ac­cord­ing to the China Pas­sen­ger Car As­so­ci­a­tion.

Yes­ter­day’s sprawl­ing dis­plays of al­most 800 ve­hi­cles in­cludes 82 world pre­mieres, with au­tomak­ers jostling to gain mar­ket share and re­vive con­sumer in­ter­est af­ter a long slump pre­dat­ing the pan­demic.

In a year where global auto sales are ex­pected to fall by 20%, rat­ing agency S&P ex­pects China may be the only mar­ket to catch up with 2019 vol­umes in the next two years.

Elec­tric ve­hi­cles were also a promi­nent feature of the China show as Bei­jing pushed the sec­tor and tar­gets a 25% adop­tion of en­ergy-sav­ing ve­hi­cles by 2025.

There were 160 on dis­play on top of con­cept cars from mak­ers in­clud­ing lux­ury brand Audi, Ja­panese giants Honda and Nis­san and Chi­nese elec­tric ve­hi­cle start-ups like Nio and XPeng.

China’s elec­tric ve­hi­cle firms have seen a surge in in­ter­est from in­vestors as they search for the next Tesla — also host­ing a stand draw­ing large crowds — with XPeng and Li Auto both go­ing pub­lic in the US this year.

Mean­while, estab­lished play­ers like Volk­swa­gen and BMW made com­mit­ments to their own elec­tric fu­ture, with all-elec­tric mod­els to be pro­duced in China.

Although auto sales are still ex­pected to fall by up to 9% this year over­all, new en­ergy ve­hi­cles are likely to pick up in the sec­ond half, S&P pre­dicted.

 ??  ?? A MO­MENT TO BREATHE: Ush­ers wear­ing face masks take a rest on the side­lines of the Auto China show, in Bei­jing, China, yes­ter­day.
A MO­MENT TO BREATHE: Ush­ers wear­ing face masks take a rest on the side­lines of the Auto China show, in Bei­jing, China, yes­ter­day.

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