As the Beijing Auto Show opened this week, the world’s car makers were gearing up for tougher times in China.
The market there is massive – the biggest anywhere – but it has begun softening after a decade of breakneck growth.
However that is relative as industry executives see annual growth falling off to an average of seven to eight percent this decade from the 46 percent it hit three years ago.
Foreign brands dominate the Chinese market, but by law they have to have a local partner.
So the number one, Volkswagen, is in a joint venture with state owned Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation which had the second largest sales in China last year. SAIC is also in a partnership with General Motors, which took the number three spot.
The Beijing show is the annual highlight for the local industry according to Tycho de Feyter, the editor of specialist web magazine Car News China: “The Chinese auto industry really wants to show off. They want to show what they have, they want to show their new developments, they want to show their new cars, so this is really important. And this is connected directly with the Chinese government of course, who wants to show the world how high-tech China has become, what they can do, what they can do in the automotive world.”
With sales weak in traditional markets, manufacturers needing growth unveiled cars specifically designed for Chinese buyers at the Beijing show.
And they are targeting both ends of the market, luxury models for newly rich urban Chinese and economy models for the low-income – but vast – rural population.