Chinese EVs shine at Shanghai auto show with increasing diversity and innovation
Leading domestic brands attract foreign industry players
Published: Apr 20, 2023 09:58 PM

Visitors swarm to multiple booths at the Shanghai auto show on April 21, 2023. About 1,000 fi rms from 20 countries and regions
participated in the show, where around 1,500 vehicles were displayed. Photo: VCG

Visitors swarm to multiple booths at the Shanghai auto show on April 21, 2023. About 1,000 fi rms from 20 countries and regions participated in the show, where around 1,500 vehicles were displayed. Photo: VCG

When auto executives gathered in Shanghai for the auto show starting Tuesday, domestic new-energy auto makers have become the absolute protagonist in this year's exhibition. Gone were the past that luxury foreign brands show off their lineup of cars with Chinese visitors queuing to take pictures. On the contrary, representatives from foreign auto makers are taking a strong interest in Chinese electric vehicle (EV) booths, to take photos and walk around.

Chinese electric cars have developed rapidly over the past few years, many of them expressed such feelings to the Global Times.

Swarm to Chinese booths

The 6.1 hall of the National Exhibition and Convention Center(Shanghai)which brings together domestic new-energy vehicle (NEV) players NIO, XPeng and Li Auto is one of the most visited halls at the auto show.

At 9 am on Wednesday there were already so many visitors at the Li Auto booth that many have to wait for an empty car or experience the vehicle with other visitors.

Among them were a lot of foreign faces, who get into the car with great interest and excitement and ask the staff about the details of the car.

Some of them took out a notebook. Some have put on translation headphones and took out their phones to make videos.

"Half of the visitors we received were foreigners, including staff from Audi and Lamborghini who came in groups to take picture and learn about our cars," a consultant from Li Auto told the Global Times.

He noted that the most frequent questions from foreign visitors are the interaction system of domestic cars, intelligent cockpit and some customer-friendly functions that are not commonly seen in European cars.

A foreign visitor wearing the badge from a German auto maker told Global Times that he was particularly interested in customer-oriented functions and designs deployed by some domestic EVs.

"Just push the button and the door can open. There is no door handle. These are the stuffs that customers like. We are going to catch up for sure," he said.

At the booth of Hozon Auto, a newly released convertible sports car, with several novel functions and a price tag of just 170,000 yuan ($24,675), has amazed many foreign visitors.

"You have such paint and the design. This price is incredible," a foreign visitor told the Global Times as he looked around the booth.

Increasing innovation 

With the rapid development of NEV, Chinese automobile enterprises have demonstrated a strong innovation ability and diversity at the Shanghai auto show, with some focusing the female groups and others offering high-end models compare to foreign luxurious cars.

Chinese EV brand Ora displayed a female-oriented car Ora Ballet Cat with 22 innovative functions designed to meet the demand among female drivers.

"The vehicle has a lighter pedal and steering wheel. The windbreaker mode automatically opens the wiper and the seat size is based on female ergonomics," a salesperson from the booth told the Global Times, noting that more than 90 percent of buyers are women.

Leading Chinese EV maker BYD unveiled its high-end model Yangwang U8 at the auto show on Tuesday. The official pre-sale price at 1.098 million yuan has immediately become a hot item at the auto show.

The Yangwang brand is showcased in the luxury car showroom, under the same roof of Porsche, Bentley and Maserati. 

A representative from the Yangwang booth told the Global Times that a large number of people lined up to visit on the first day of the auto show.

The people queuing up for Yangwang squeezed out of the guardrails, which is three or four times the flow of other brands in the luxury car showroom, the Global Times noticed.

BYD said in a written interview with the Global Times that in the mainstream household market, Chinese NEV brands have formed strong competitiveness and are at the forefront of global development; however, there are still very few Chinese brands in the high-end market. 

"By launching this brand, we aims to explore the most cutting-edge technology in the industry, and transform it into products to contribute to consumers," BYD said.

In the past 20 years of vigorous development of China's NEV, the industry has blossomed with battery and electric drive technologies reaching the forefront of the world, the company said.

"Profound technology accumulation and mature industrial chain will support us to continue to move forward in the deep water area of technology," BYD said

EVs, together with lithium batteries and solar cells, are hailed as the new pillars of China's foreign trade given their export boom, which manifests the country's continuous optimization in export structure and industrial upgrading.

The three industries had a total export volume of 264.7 billion yuan ($38.5 billion) in the first quarter of 2023, up 66.9 percent year-on-year and accounting for 4.7 percent of China's total exports, according to statistics released by the General Administration of Customs on April 13.

In the first quarter, China exported 248,000 NEVs, up 110 percent year-on-year, according to the latest data from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.